Chris Grossnickle (left), Matthew Cannon, Josh Grossnickle, Ryan Lynch and Andy Fountain (right).
Keeping a teenager focused on the task at hand is tough these days but three Boy Scouts worked hard to keep their eyes on the prize and achieved the highest honor the organization bestows — Eagle Scout.
Matthew Cannon, 18, Ryan Lynch, 17, and Josh Grossnickle, 17, will be honored Saturday during an Eagle Court of Honor at Jonesboro’s St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, where the troop meets.
Grossnickle’s family is pretty familiar with the routine. Josh’s dad and brother, both named Chris Grossnickle, already have their Eagle Scout designations.
“It just runs in the family,” said Josh Grossnickle. “It is something I had to do since the whole family was involved in scouting. I’ve learned a lot of life skills that will help me the rest of my life.”
Grossnickle’s mother, Betty Jo McConnell, wondered if he always saw it that way.
“I think Josh had it rough,” said McConnell. “His brother is four years older so he got into scouting first. Josh was the troop’s mascot, the leader’s son. I think we pushed harder and had higher expectations. We had to nudge Josh quite a bit. Course, he’s been in it four extra years.”
The journey to the top rank starts for a Boy Scout at age 10 and a half and must be completed by 18. There are badges to be earned and service projects to be completed. Grossnickle and Cannon worked on a prayer garden at the church. Lynch built a computer cabinet for Clayton County Community Service and re-painted the center’s waiting room.
Lynch, a senior at The Heritage School in Newnan, said he is relieved his journey is over. He is the son of Janet Lynch Creecy of Newnan and Patrick Lynch of Locust Grove.
“This is a huge weight off me,” he said. “There were a lot of people pushing me through it. I know we have a duty to pass it down, to teach what we know to the younger kids.”
The boys’ biggest support comes from their families. Creecy said she recognizes the accomplishment her son has achieved.
“He started out as a Cub Scout and stuck with it,” she said. “He was prodded by me and other adults — you finish what you start and one day this will mean a lot.”
She also had high praise for the men who volunteer their time in the Boy Scouts.
“These mentors, shaping and molding a child means so much more in this day and age,” she said. “You really have to stay on top of kids. It isn’t easy.”
Cannon, the son of Lindwood and Deborah Cannon of Jonesboro, is the first of the three to start college. He is a freshman at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and wants to study exercise science to become a physical therapist.
“I’m proud of myself for this accomplishment and thankful to my supporters,” said Matthew Cannon.
Deborah Cannon echoed Creecy’s appreciation of the troop volunteers.
“They gave him words of encouragement, whatever he needed to push on,” she said. “I have to commend the men here for volunteering their time, which is valuable. I am so proud he finished. There were a lot of distractions with girls, cars, band.”
Deborah Cannon recalled an event her son witnessed as a child that has stuck with her.
“When he was a Cub Scout, we did an event where we fed the homeless,” said Cannon. “One of the scout leaders sat down with a homeless, hungry man and actually had a conversation with him. I remembered Matthew being impressed by that. He told me he recognized that the leader could have just given the man money and sent him on his way but he treated him like a human being.”
The elder Chris Grossnickle is the Life to Eagle coordinator for the troop so he worked closely with the trio in getting to their ultimate goal.
“Deborah hit on the most important aspect of scouting and that’s service,” he said. “They have to work to give back to their community. What they do can’t benefit the scout, it has to benefit the community, that’s very important.”
Josh Grossnickle is a junior at Luella High School and lives in Hampton. His post-high school plans include enrolling in Southern Crescent College in Griffin to study business.
“After that, I want to transfer to a bigger school,” he said.
After a scout reaches Eagle, they get a palm for every five badges they earn afterward. Josh Grossnickle has four palms and earned all four religious medals available to Boy Scouts. Lynch earned two religious medals and Cannon earned one. All three completed National Youth Leadership Training.
Even as they put this part of their lives behind them, the teens said Boy Scouts impacted their lives in a way nothing else could have.
“I was able to try so many new things,” said Josh Grossnickle. “I’ve traveled halfway across the country, gone rock-climbing, rafting, snowboarding. I got to try stuff I’d never have gotten to do and made a ton of friends.”
The Eagle Scout designation started in 1912 so this is the 100th anniversary of the prestigious rank. A little more than 2 million scouts achieved the status in those 100 years. Well-known Eagle Scouts include President Ford, the late actor Jimmy Stewart, the late television newsman Walter Cronkite, award-winning producer Steven Spielberg and former presidential candidate Ross Perot.