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New Beginnings

Oct 19, 2011

Kate McCasland has a soft spot for premature babies–she was one herself–and when it came time to choose a subject for her Bronze Award, the decision was a no-brainer. She wanted to knit hats to keep preemies warm, and donate them to the hospital that had saved her life as a baby. By the time her project was finished, the Midlothian, Texas native had knitted 112 of them.

Kate McCasland

For her Silver Award, Kate created a program model for her council, which taught other girls how to get involved and donate hats of their own. Other councils have already used her model for donations of their own.

Next it was time to tackle the Gold Award. This time, Kate added another layer to her ongoing project, which she calls “Special Beginnings.” She wanted to get senior citizens involved in community service–which can be challenging when many seniors have limited mobility. “I wanted to join senior citizens and younger people together,” she says, “And knitting is very good for seniors’ motor skills.” Originally, Kate hoped to involve 50 senior citizens, and reach a total of 5,000 hours of community service. The final number came to more than 30,000 hours, involving more than 150 volunteers. Her oldest volunteer was 93 years old. One volunteer made more than 700 hats.

The final hat tally? More than 10,000–and still going. In addition to providing hats to area hospitals, Kate donated 1,600 hats to Save the Children. It was the largest single donation ever made to their Caps for Good program. As word has spread, more and more organizations have adopted Kate’s model. The Dallas Zoo has even asked Kate about incorporating the program into their Zoo School and Winter Camps. For her work, Kate received the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) vision award in the area of wellness. She is the only person under the age of 18 to have received the award. Special Beginnings also became a certifying organization for the Presidential Service Award–and all of Kate’s volunteers earned the award.

Kate, now a junior in high school, was awarded her Gold Award in May 2011. “My project is complete,” she says. “Now I just do it for fun.”