WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Zackary Kirkland never expected to get a letter from the president.
“It caught me very off-guard,” said the Winter Haven teen.
Kirkland founded Silly Sock Saturdays while in eighth grade. The non-profit provides gift bags to kids at Lakeland Regional Medical Center on the second Saturday of every month. He’s posted many photos of his visits to Facebook. Items in the gift bags include silly socks and art supplies. He estimates he’s provided more than 5,000 bags over the years.
“Silly Sock Saturday started actually as a school assignment,” explained Kirkland, who started the non-profit because he had family members in the hospital at the time. “Little gift bags with silly socks tied on the outside and we filled them with different items.
“Coloring books, card games, different items to use during their stay at the hospital.”
Kirkland was awarded The President's Volunteer Service Award by President Joe Biden on June 25. The award reads in part: “The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. I congratulate you on taking it upon yourself to contribute to the public good, and I'm proud to present you with the President's Gold Volunteer Service award in recognition of your 500+ hours of service to this Great Nation.”
Kirkland has received recognition over the years from news outlets but never thought it would catch the attention of the Commander-In-Chief.
“It validates everything that I’ve been doing,” Kirkland said.
The Silly Socks Saturday website explains the mission this way: “As a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization we plan on bringing joy and happiness to kids in hospitals, in the form of silly socks with comfort items, such as toys, coloring books, and crayons, and delivered with a smile while inspiring other to do good in the community.”
Zachary plans to attend the University of Central Florida. He intends to come home each month to continue delivering gift bags to kids in the hospital.