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Unlikely friend makes Sundays super for Olathe woman

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Little acts of kindness can mean a lot. And little acts of kindness done over and over again for years by the same person can become something very, very big. The truth of that can be seen in this week's FOX 4 Young Achiever, an eighth grade boy who has made a remarkable personal commitment .

It happens almost every Sunday afternoon at Elizabeth Talley's modest little home in Olathe. Jakob Smith, a boy 72 years her junior, pays her a visit and stays for an hour or two.

"I enjoy having him here," said Elizabeth. "He's good company for one thing. For another, he's a delightful person. Special teenager."

Jakob sits comfortably across from Elizabeth and they chat easily and amiably. Sometimes they'll watch football, but mostly he reads to her.

"Basically novels that I like to read," said Jakob. "I've read a couple that she has."

Elizabeth has very poor vision due to macular degeneration and it's a real struggle for her to read on her own. She has books on CD, but that's not very satisfying for her.

"I need, feel the need to have a one-on-one relationship," said Elizabeth, "Which you don't get from a CD, certainly."

This all started when Elizabeth put a notice in her church's bulletin asking for volunteers to read to her. A handful of high school kids did it for a few months, but they drifted away. And then Jakob and his mom saw Elizabeth's request.

"And so my mom said, 'Hey, let's do this,'" said Jakob. "And I'm like, 'OK.' And then we came over here for a few times. Tried it out. I liked it. And it's stuck ever since."

That was three years ago and Jakob has kept at it, faithfully, almost every Sunday and sometimes even on weekdays when he doesn't have school, his mom driving him here for every visit. Jakob makes these regular visits to Elizabeth even though he is a busy student and Boy Scout.

Jakob is working quickly to achieve his Eagle Scout rank. He also was a Gold Award winner in the 2013 Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair and is working on a project for this spring's fair.

"I just see it as a nice gesture of just giving some of my time to someone else," said Jakob, modestly.

But both Jakob and Elizabeth say there is something much more happening in his visits here as he enriches her life, and vice versa.

"I think any friend I can get is just awesome," said Jakob. "And so that's why it makes me happy."

"He just is a special person," said Elizabeth. "You can't help but love that kid. Can't help it."

It's an unlikely bond of friendship and mutual admiration and respect -- an 86-year-old woman and the middle school boy who had been a stranger to her before he made this commitment.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'd say a 10," says Jakob, with a big smile.

"He's a super kid, what can I say?" said Elizabeth. "How do you get better than super? I don't know."

Jakob gets no community service credit for visiting Elizabeth Talley. He says it is part of his family and religious upbringing. And it's part of his Boy Scout culture.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

Phil Witt, Fox 4 News

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