Some silly socks have polka dots, some have stripes. Some are bright red, others the colors of the rainbow. There are socks decorated with spider man, music notes or dinosaurs. But the one thread that binds all of the silly socks together is that they bring smiles to kids at Lakeland Regional Health Hospital in Winter Park, Florida. Two years ago, at the age of 14, Zachary Kirkland was assigned a project – to dream up a way to make a difference in his community. Since he’d visited family members in the hospital, he remembers jokes about the ugly long blue socks that were standard issue for hospital patients. Why not literally brighten a hospital stay for kids his own age, or younger, with a bag of play and craft items and a pair of silly fun socks sure to bring smiles to an otherwise difficult situation? Silly Sock Saturdays was born, with Zachary, now 16, founder and CEO of a 501-C-3 nonprofit corporation. The young changemaker, a longtime volunteer at his church and a boy scout on the cusp of making Eagle Scout, delivers 60 bags and pairs of silly socks to kids 3-18 every month to Lakeland Hospital, with hopes of expanding his vision into more Central Florida hospitals in the near future. Because being sick is scary, silly socks bring smiles to kids in need, and that’s a step in the right direction.
Zachary is committed to making a difference in his community and he is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with him about his commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I’ve been taught to have an attitude of servitude my entire life, at school, in church and scouts. Giving back to my community is just something that is a part of normal life.
Describe your volunteer role. When I started, I had to figure out all the paperwork to fill out to be a nonprofit – how to make it happen. I am constantly out there, talking to groups and partners and explaining the work that we do. I speak to the media, community groups, organize fundraisers. And we put together 60 bags per month to deliver to the local hospital. Each bag is worth about $8-$10 and is geared by gender to certain age groups so each one is a little different and special.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Really the feedback I get from the kids and the parents, who see how happy a bag has made their child. I get photos of the kids smiling – that makes me so happy.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I’ve learned to ask for what I need, to interact with adults to get donations. That had me kind of worried in the beginning, I struggled with that outreach at first. But I’ve grown in my confidence and ability to handle that – I see it as life skills that will help me moving forward.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I have my big annual bowling fundraising coming up July 27 at Cypress Lanes in Winter park, so that’s exciting. I also hope to expand to other hospitals in the near future.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back? Giving back is a way to keep the good going. There is a lot of negativity spread throughout the community. Doing good combats that and brings positive energy that creates a force for good.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Everyone can give back in some way and be an inspiration not matter what their age, where they come from or how they have struggled. They can bring their life experience and wisdom to helping others, which will in turn help them.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Zachary?Click here to find local volunteer opportunities.