Soaring to the top

Jonathan McGee breaks new ground as he earns Eagle Scout

Jonathan McGee has an extra reason to be proud of the accomplishment of earning his Eagle Scout award. In doing so, the William Blount High School student has also broken new ground. Jonathan, who was honored at a ceremony on Nov. 29, may be the scout with Down Syndrome to earn his Eagle.

George LeCrone of Knoxville has been on the Catholic Committee on Scouting for 10 years and spoke at McGee’s Eagle Court of Honor ceremony at First United Methodist Church of Maryville. LeCrone said he checked with 17 districts across the country and could not find any other scout with Down Syndrome who had attained the Eagle rank.

“He’s just an exceptional young man,” said LeCrone. “I learned more from him than he got from me, just in the way he reacts. He’s a super kid.”

Jonathan is the son of Randy and Kathy McGee. Present at the ceremony were approximately 100 people, including U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor and State Rep. Bob Ramsey.

When asked about the ceremony, Jonathan was enthusiastic. “Well, it was exciting,” he said.

Kathy McGee was happy with how the ceremony went but said she got another surprise the next day. “We thought it went great, and we were pleased with the turnout and the dignitaries who came,” she said. “What we didn’t know was the next day Jonathan was featured on Mike Huckabee’s radio program as a Huck’s Hero. He was the Huck’s Hero for the day.”

Kathy McGee said the Order of the Arrow, the honor society for scouting, has asked Jonathan to come be honored because he was recognized as a “Huck’s Hero,” and they asked Kathy McGee to come speak with the Bishop’s Committee on Scouting.

Kathy McGee said scouting is an important part of her son’s life. “It exposed him to experiences and crafts and skills we might not think to teach him. Even though he might not master all of them, it exposes him to things he’ll be able to use the rest of his life,” she said. “It keeps him involved with other scouts so he can be in the main flow.”

Being in the mainstream in scouting and at school helps Jonathan, Kathy McGee said. “He’s in special education class at school and has peer tutors who help him. It is helping those kids and helps kids with disabilities stay connected with others and know what’s hip and what’s going on,” she said.

Kathy said her son has been around a lot of students with disabilities but also has many friends who don’t have disabilities. “We’ve tried to expose him to everything and everybody in life and not build our lives strictly around special education,” she said. “Scouting gave him that opportunity.”

Jonathan started in scouting at 7 years old in 1995 when he began with the Tiger Cubs. He worked his way up to the Boy Scouts, earned the Arrow of Light and World Conservation Award and crossed over to Troop 83 before he transferred to Troop 81 in May of 2005.

He has earned 33 merit badges, including the Ad Altare Dei Merit Badge, the second highest award given by the Catholic Church. McGee is an altar server at Holy Family Catholic Church in Seymour and is in the process of joining the Knights of Columbus.

Another activity Jonathan enjoys is Special Olympics. In 2003, he lit the cauldron to officially start the Blount County Area 15 Special Olympics games.

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