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Congressional medals firsts for Wylie, district

LAKE WYLIE -- Though few people likely know it, Lake Wylie is home to the first family of youth congressional medals. Especially now when the second person ever in U.S. Rep. John Spratt's district, also the second in his own family, owns silver and bronze Congressional Awards, with plans to receive the gold this summer.

"It is quite an achievement and I wish more people in the district would learn about the program and get involved," Spratt said Thursday. "Ryan is the second person in this district to ever receive this honor and the program has been in existence for 30 years."

Ryan Kane, 17, on Thursday received two of the three Congressional Awards already earned in more than three years participating in the program. The only other winner in the history of Spratt's district is Charles Kane, Ryan's older brother, who won the awards in 2006.

"It did," Ryan said of whether his brother influenced his effort. "It encouraged me a little bit."

The Congressional Award program for youth is open to anyone up to age 23. Requirements for volunteerism, personal development, personal fitness and adventure must be met, with hundreds of hours often devoted to each. For his adventure requirement, for instance, Kane led a Boy Scouts High Adventure program living on a catamaran in the Caribbean for a week.

"I wasn't terribly worried, but I did keep an eye on the weather--at least two or three times a day," said Ryan's mother Florence Kane.

On June 25, Ryan will receive his gold medal in Washington after the special presentation by Spratt Thursday in Rock Hill.

While pleased with his medals, Ryan Kane is more interested in what he learned through the process of achieving them, and what others might learn.

"Overall, it really helped me develop good habits in being part of my community, volunteerism and making healthy choices," he said. "Everybody who knows about it should help others get involved, because it really is a great program."

In fact, if the first family has anything to say about it, Kane will not be the only name associated with the Congressional Award for youth long. Already, they have plans to introduce the program to about 20 young people.

"I'd like to see others get involved, not only for the achievement but for becoming a better person," Ryan Kane said.

Now becoming more accustomed to presentations from Spratt, Florence Kane hopes the reception her sons received will help inspire others, too.

"No one else was there, just him spending time with us," she said of the statesman. "He gives you 100 percent attention when he's with you. I gain more and more respect for him every time I see him."

More importantly, though, she hopes other young people can live and learn the basics of the program--community activism, fitness, good decision making and adventure--like her sons have.

"What I'd like to do is continue to promote it," she said. "It's developing youth to give back to the community through volunteerism. If everybody would do that, that's the essence of life, of living together."

For more information on the program, visit congressionalaward.org/youth.

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