WEST VIRGINIA - When Noah Owens of local Boy Scout Troop 39 attended the largest Boy Scouts of America event in the country, he had no idea he would catch the attention of the organization's national leaders.
Owens, an eighth grade student at Bonifay's K-8 school, said he had the experience of a lifetime when he attended the 90th National Scout Jamboree July 19-28 in Mount Hope, West Virginia. For 10 days, Owens spent time building new friendships, camping, participating in science, math, technology and education activities, learning new skills to earn merit badges, patch trading, zip lining and other activities. Highlights included hearing President Donald Trump speak - but Owens said a chance meeting created the best moment of all.
"I was walking by and saw some gentlemen praying," Owens said. "They were holding an outside memorial service for someone who had recently passed away."
Instead of walking on by as many others would have done, Owens stopped to pray with the adults at the camp memorial, unknowing that one of the men was Wayne M. Perry, the immediate past National President of the Boy Scouts of America.
"After we were done praying, he asked my name and let me show him my collection of Boy Scout cards" recalls Owens. "Then, he introduced himself and presented me with the golden card, the one with his photo on it."
Similar to baseball trading cards, the Boy Scouts of America and its councils produce cards notating famous scouts, benefactors, and commemorative occasions. This year, the card featuring Perry - referred to as the golden card - was one of the rarest, most sought after cards. The card is so rare, in fact, Owens was offered up to $2,500 by collectors while he was still at the Jamboree - an offer the scout politely declined.
"I was shocked," said Owens. "Out of thousands of scouts there, I was the one he gave it to." Owens also met the designer of the popular trading cards, who happened to be one of the other men praying at the memorial.
But while his actions instilled by his time as a scout and his Holmes County raising is what helped Owens receive the card, stopping to pray wasn't the only thing that caught the attention of the Jamboree's adult leaders.
Leaders noticed Owens showing leadership initiative, which gained him a position as Assistant Patrol Leader at the Jamboree - and put the 13 year old in charge of other scouts as old as 17.
Owens, who began as a scout in the fourth grade, says he takes the responsibility seriously - and if he remains on the path he's on, he will achieve the rank of Eagle Scout at 14, a rank most do not reach until the age of 18.
Owens has earned nearly 30 merits badges and other leadership recognition, as well as served four terms as Patrol Leader for Troop 39.
His mother, Jewellyn Owens, says his role as a member of Troop 39 under the leadership of Ted Spangenberg is a perfect fit.
"He's very responsible," said Jewellyn Owens. "He has a superb work ethic is always taking charge. Ted [Spangenberg] is a wonderful leader, and I think the Boy Scouts has shaped him into being a more conscientious person."