Area residents might remember Jonathan Baggett as a young boy with curly hair tagging along with his father Bobby Baggett who was the senior pastor for the First United Methodist Church in Stephenville from June 1995 to June 1999.
Jonathan attended Stepping Stones before moving on to kindergarten and soccer practice.
Now, Jonathan is a young man, all of 17 years old, and a senior at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills who was nominated as the Homecoming King just months after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Birdville High School Principal Jason Wells said Jonathan is a good student and well liked by his peers.
“He is a great kid and has a smile on his face all the time,” Wells said. “Jonathan is an everyday, ordinary kiddo.”
In fact, Jonathan, who also goes by Jonny, reportedly describes himself as just an “Average Joe.”
Jonathan’s friend and fellow student Michael Hutsell jokingly retells a story of how Jonathan came to be nominated for Homecoming King.
“Michael says that Jonathan pointed out that the Homecoming King and Queen usually come from a big group. If a band member is nominated then the whole band votes for them and if a cheerleader is nominated then all the cheerleaders vote for her,” Wells explained. “So, after last year, Jonathan said he was going to be the People’s King and represent all groups. That’s the way Michael tells it.”
The truth is, Jonathan has come to represent all students because he is one of them, Wells said.
BHS has more than 1,800 students, putting it in the 4A district. Wells said the school is relatively new and the sports program is even newer. Jonathan was active in soccer and played on the varsity soccer team.
Last year, he was a starter for the team that made it to the Regional Quarter Finals - the best the school has ever done. Shortly after they were eliminated in April, Jonathan was diagnosed with leukemia.
“What hit our kids the hardest is he’s one of them - if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone,” Wells said.
Earlier this year, Hutsell spearheaded efforts to crown his friend king.
“He’s been kind of the leader of our student body and the rallying cry of support,” Wells said.
Hutsell not only campaigned for his friend, but also created T-shirts that read “The Battle Begins” in a Dallas Mavericks inspired font after Jonathan’s favorite professional team.
“Jonny is a big Dallas Mavericks fan,” Wells said.
The Birdville Homecoming game is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, when the Birdville Hawks face the Saginaw Rough Riders at the Birdville Fine Arts/Athletic Facility, located at 9200 Mid Cities Boulevard in North Richland Hills. The king and queen will be crowned at half time, and although Wells knows the results - he’s not telling.
“I’m sworn to secrecy,” Wells said.
And while most homecomings are filled with jubilee, Jonathan’s friends and family are facing a difficult future.
“The doctors went back in to check Jon’s brain (with a scan),” his Facebook page stated Wednesday afternoon. “They found that his brain has been damaged from the swelling and fluid. This means they are back to a day-to-day prognosis.”
Two years ago, the family suffered another blow when Jonathan’s father Bobby died after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in April 2007.
“His father passed away a few years ago and Jonathan has been moved to the same hospice as his dad,” Wells said.
But his family and friends will likely draw strength and comfort from one of Jonathan’s favorite Bible passages, Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path.”