McKenzie Gets Scout Award Tonight
Don McKenzie grew up as a Scout in Troop 7 in Pinehurst, where his dad, Billy, was Scoutmaster.
He followed the family tradition, earning his Eagle Scout badge two weeks shy of his 18th birthday. Like his father, McKenzie has tried to give back what Scouting gave him.
Tonight, he will receive the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Moore District Boy Scouts of America.
When he's working, McKenzie is not the sort of fellow folks generally notice. He is the man behind the camera, the hometown photographer capturing the moments of life people want to remember - their wedding day, an anniversary, a birthday.
He follows a grand tradition set by a number of local shutterbugs, perhaps most notably the dean of Pinehurst Kodak-chroniclers, John Hemmer.
"I started working for Mr. Hemmer when I was a boy," McKenzie said. "My job means what I have to sell are my weekends."
That's when people usually plan weddings. It's also when Scoutmasters hit the trails and pitch tents with their Scouts. McKenzie reserved one weekend every month for his troop.
As a boy, his dad was often one of the Scouters along on events such as national Jamborees, where thousands of Scouts attend a mass encampment, or on expeditions at one of the nation's high-adventure reservations.
He backpacked the high mountains of the Sangre de Christo range in northern New Mexico as a Scout, with his dad along as a leader, and then again in that role himself with a team of Scouts.
"We made it to the top of Old Baldy," McKenzie said. "Rocks as big as this (holding his hands to show a space bigger than a softball) but the boys wanted to make it to the top, so I had to go along. When we got there, we couldn't see much. The whole top of the mountain was fogged in."
He said he didn't mind. Scouting is a Scout-led and Scout-directed movement. Adults are there for guidance and wisdom. The point of it all is to learn the game of life through outdoor adventure, McKenzie stressed.
"Scouting is a game, played in the out-of-doors by boys under the guidance of men," said Scouting's founder, a British Army officer by the name of Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, long ago.
This year, American Scouting celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding on Feb. 8, 1910. It all began with a famous good deed the year before when William D. Boyce, a businessman from Chicago, found himself lost in London in the fog. A boy helped him find his way but wouldn't accept any tip or reward.
"I'm a Scout, sir," the boy said. "I do a good deed every day."
When Boyce returned to America, he brought Scouting with him.
The award McKenzie receives tonight at the Country Club of North Carolina during the annual recognition banquet started in 2003, with former N.C. Gov. James Holshouser one of its first recipients.
The award honors individuals in Moore County who best exemplify the core values and traditions of the Scouting movement in their own lives.
For McKenzie, Scouting has been at the heart of his life.
"Scouting gave so much to me growing up," he said. "I had to give something back. It is the way my dad raised us. It's what he did. He was in Troop 7 as a youth, served in the Marines, thought Scouting was a very strong program for the young men of the community."
Billy McKenzie made sure his sons had a chance at the movement. Don McKenzie was a Boy Scout in the old troop by the age of 7.
"I loved the camping," he said. "Growing up in Pinehurst, in the summer when the hotels closed, we had pretty much free rein. Our all-terrain vehicles back then were bicycles, with newspaper baskets on the front.
"We loaded them with a jungle hammock and a frying pan, get some pork chops from Mama's freezer, go to Otter Pond and camp out for days. Nobody ever worried about us."
McKenzie was Scoutmaster at the old troop for a decade. For the past 15 years or so, he has served on the Eagle Review Board. He has been active in its supporting organization, Comm-unity Presbyterian Church, as well as many other bodies and groups dedicated to some form of public service.
"I am really humbled," he said. "I am humbled by this honor."
McKenzie just thinks of that public work as the sort of good deeds all Scouts promise to do their best to do, just keeping that century-old promise to do their duty to God and country, and to "help other people at all times."
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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