Each year, the Camp Fire USA Tejas Council opens nominations for the Absolutely Incredible Kid awards. This year's winners will be honored during a luncheon Thursday at the Bell County Expo Center's Assembly Hall in Belton.

The guest speaker for the luncheon is Charles Patterson, retired superintendent of Killeen Independent School District.

Meet this year's incredible kids:

Hadden Whitaker

Age: 9

School: Tyler Elementary in Belton

Grade: Third

Parents: Jessie and Shaun Whitaker

Nominated by: Christy Jones

"This kid is amazing! The last thing Hadden wants is for people to treat him differently or to not allow him to do something because of his handicaps. Hadden has the kindest heart. He loves making people laugh and loves just being a regular kid. I am forever changed by having the privilege to teach him and to know him."

Ethan Jett Truss

Age: 11

School: Gatesville Intermediate

Grade: Sixth

Parents: David and Lisa Truss

Nominated by: Beverly Williams

"Jett has an overwhelming love for students with disabilities and works with our Life skills class on a regular basis. Jett serves on the school Leadership Team and was instrumental in establishing it last year. The school Leadership Team helps organize and facilitate the Veterans Day Program, Food for Families food drive … and 'hat days' designed to assist tragedy stricken students and/or families in our community."

Brandon Thomas

Age: 18

School: Shoemaker High School in Killeen

Grade: 12th

Nominated by: Shoemaker High School

"Brandon is not recognized for his behind-the-scenes contributions to the school and his community, nor does he seek to be rewarded for his efforts. He enjoys being involved in making his school/community better just for the sake of creating a better place. I believe his humble spirit makes him an absolutely incredible kid and the most deserving high school student I know."

Abigail Te Poel

Age: 17

School: Home school in Belton

Grade: 11th

Parents: Mark and Cynthia Te Poel

Nominated by: Harry and Janis Scott and Cindy Te Poel

"She is very caring and warm toward anyone who needs a helping hand or just a positive smile and encouraging word. She has been involved in many community service projects since a very early age and continues to do as much as possible. After going on a mission trip last summer … she hopes to major in nursing or in a medical field that would allow her to minister medically and emotionally to underprivileged people in the U.S. and other countries."

Julia Mueller

Age: 18

School: Belton High School

Grade: 12th

Parents: John and Kate Mueller

Nominated by: Amanda Necessary

"Julia is very involved in the community and school activities. Her level of maturity and grasp of the world is very rare for a student her age. She has a willingness to learn and serve that is contagious if you are around her. She has the respect of her fellow students and school staff. She makes us all want to do better. Julia is every school, every teacher and every parent's dream."

Samantha Waggoner

Age: 16

School: Belton High School

Grade: 10th

Parents: Jeff and Angela Waggoner

Nominated by: Kim Vaughn

"Samantha is one of those students who really cares about others. She is a constant volunteer in our community. She enjoys helping people of all types and makes herself available even though she has a full schedule herself. She sets goals for herself and makes time for others. Samantha is always willing to give of herself."

Kellie Stanley

Age: 17

School: Shoemaker High School in Killeen

Grade: 12th

Parent: Misty Wright

Nominated by: Tasha Todd-Sheehan

"I believe the challenges that Kellie has faced in her personal life would have hindered most any young adult, but instead she has used them to push her forward and make her more dedicated to those around her. Kellie comes from a broken home and she had to grow up and face adult responsibilities before she was ready. However, she was very strong and did the best she could in a bad situation. I think this contributes to her maturity and pose and the fact that she is a very compassionate caring person that does everything she can to reach out and positively impact others."

Stephen Ash

Age: 18

School: Home school in Belton

Grade: 12th

Parents: John and Gayle Ash

Nominated by: Gayle Ash

"What really makes Stephen absolutely incredible is who he is as a person. He is a respectful son and a kind big brother. He is gracious in helping friends with their math homework, helping a neighbor clear their yard after a storm or even looking for a lost pet. He has gone to both the Dominican Republic and Kenya on mission trips. He was able to preach a number of times in Kenya and he was really able to connect with the people there. Stephen has many friends among all kinds of people of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. He encourages me to be a better person every day and he will always be the most absolutely incredible kid I know."

- Herald staff reports

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