The late Chris Kyle famously wrote “it is our duty to serve those who serve us” in his bestselling memoir.
Wills McAdams, an eighth-grader at Central Magnet School, has not yet read “American Sniper.” He never even saw the Academy Award-winning movie version directed by Clint Eastwood.
And yet the 14-year-old from Murfreesboro has embodied what Kyle meant by the importance of serving others and has dedicated his summer breaks to helping veterans.
For his diligence and selflessness, McAdams has received one of only two of Tennessee’s 2017 youth volunteer awards — the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. As part of the recognition, he will receive a $1,000 scholarship and an engraved silver medallion at a presentation scheduled for March 15 in the auditorium at Central Magnet.
“Honestly, at first, it was just pure disbelief,” McAdams said of being notified he won. “I’ve never heard of anyone from my school getting this far with this scholarship and I was content with being a school nominee — that looks good on a resume as well – but I can definitely say this will look better.”
The past two summers, McAdams has been volunteering twice a week at the York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro. He worked five-hour shifts that evolved from observing professionally trained physical therapists to basic hands-on training in assisting veterans with various tasks.
His older brother, Trey, a freshman at Vanderbilt University, volunteered at the VA the year before Wills started.
McAdams has worked under Steven Hopkins, while Darlene Haynes is the coordinator of voluntary services at the VA.
Depending on what Hopkins needs, McAdams will aid patients with stretch routines or once they begin walking, he’ll trail behind with a wheelchair in the event the patient needs to rest. Other times McAdams will escort them to and from physical therapy, or clean and sanitize their rooms.
McAdams plans to pursue a career in physical therapy and will again volunteer this coming summer, he said.
“I wanted to do something good,” said McAdams, whose grandfather and uncle both served in the military.
He added, “There’s a sense of pride that comes with … helping people that really need it and not just with their health. Some of those people, they don’t get to see young people very much and I know just seeing a good smile on their face makes it worth it.”
In addition to the scholarship and medallion, McAdams will also receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in early May when Prudential will name the national winners.
McAdams, who will turn 15 on May 9, has been to D.C. once before.
However, this time he’ll also be meeting Tennessee congressmen and other award winners.
“I think it’ll be just as fun as the first trip,” McAdams said, “but I think what I’m looking forward to most is just meeting the other volunteers, hearing their background and how they’ve been helping their communities.”