Iowa boy killed in homecoming accident was 'super positive kid' who dreamed of becoming a professional athlete

Philip Joens
Des Moines Register
Kage McDonald, 12, played football for Westwood Junior High School in Sloan, Iowa. McDonald, 12, died Friday when he fell off a float during the Westwood High homecoming parade. The high school's football team honored McDonald by painting his No. 3 in the end zones and painting each No. 3 on the 30-yard-lines blue.

It was Kage McDonald's dream to one day run in the Olympics or play wide receiver in the NFL, and he was doing everything he could to turn those aspirations into reality.

McDonald, of the small northwest Iowa town of Salix, was one of the few kids on both the football and cross country teams this fall at Westwood Community School District, where he was a seventh-grader. 

The seasons overlapped and practices conflicted with each other, but he gave his all to both teams, his father Matt McDonald said. He'd go to football practice each afternoon and make time at night to fit in that day's cross country workout, or he'd wake up early the next day and do it. 

"He just loved to run," Matt McDonald said of his son, 12, who died last week in a Westwood homecoming parade accident in Sloan. Local authorities said the boy fell off a float and was accidentally run over. 

More:Student in western Iowa dies following homecoming parade accident

What we know about the accident

The accident happened around 1:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, as the Westwood homecoming parade rolled through Sloan, a Woodbury County town of about 1,000. Matt McDonald said his son, who was riding in the parade, apparently reached for a water bottle when he fell off the float. 

Kage McDonald was flown to a Sioux City hospital, where he died. 

A Go Fund Me created to support the family had an original goal of $3,000; as of Thursday afternoon more than $31,000 had been raised.

Westwood High School in Sloan, Iowa painted the No. 3 in the end zones for its homecoming game Sat. Sept. 25, to honor Kage McDonald, 12, who died when he fell off a float in the school's homecoming parade Friday. McDonald wore No. 3 for his junior high football team.

Westwood's homecoming game, which was scheduled just hours after the parade, was delayed until Saturday. Instead of a football Friday night, two local pastors held a vigil at the field. Kage McDonald's middle school teammates formed a tight circle and the high school team surrounded them to show unity, Matt McDonald said. 

"They just had a little prayer, moment of silence," Matt McDonald said. "Once they had the moment of silence they just started singing 'Amazing Grace.'" 

The high school football team wore Kage McDonald's No. 3 on their helmets during the homecoming game, which they won 49-13 against Hinton.

“It’s a chance for our football team to honor Kage’s memory. It’s a close-knit group of guys, and our junior high is a close-knit group of guys,” Cass Burkhart, Westwood football coach and activities director,  told Sioux City ABC affiliate KCAU. 

Kage's Boy Scout troop presented the American, Iowa and Sloan flags in a color guard before the game. Each 30-yard-line had the No. 3 spray-painted blue and the No. 3 was painted in each end zone. A balloon release before the game also was held in McDonald's honor. 

Westwood High School in Sloan, Iowa painted the No. 3 in the end zones for its homecoming game Sat. Sept. 25, to honor Kage McDonald, 12, who died when he fell off a float in the school's homecoming parade Friday. McDonald wore No. 3 for his junior high football team.

"We felt like we needed to go to that," Matt McDonald said. "I hadn't even noticed the numbers on the field painted blue. That hit me. That was very touching because Kage would've loved that." 

The support from their community has helped the McDonald family cope with the loss.

"Kage was such a big part of our life," Matt McDonald said. "Always had a smile. But with the community we live in, the love and support they've shown for Kage, it makes you feel good."

More:How to interpret Iowa schools' COVID-19 dashboards and make use of the data

Kage McDonald had a love for running

Kage McDonald wrestled at an early age but switched to basketball in the winter to feed his need to run, his father said. That's where his love of all sports was rooted — in the running. 

When Kage McDonald was young he figured out that the family's dog Zeus would follow him along the edge of their property. Both boy and dog treated it like a competition, Matt McDonald said, so every time the family got home they would race around the yard.

Kage McDonald loved to race his family's dog Zeus. McDonald, 12, died Friday when he fell off a float during his school's homecoming parade. His family remembered him as a determined kid who was an aspiring Olympian.

"He learned if he would run, the dog would run with him," Matt McDonald said. "He would just take off running and the dog would run with him."

Westwood Superintendent Jay Lutt said it's rare for kids to take on as much as Kage McDonald did. 

"We don't get a lot of kids who do junior high football and cross country," Lutt said. "Just a special runner. He loved it."

Kage always looked up to his brother Kaleb, who is serving in the Air Force at Offutt Air Force Base. The brothers were very close, their grandmother, Darla McDonald, said. When Kaleb ran cross country in high school Kage, who was in third grade, would tag along and hold his own against the older runners.

More:Rides like Adventureland's Raging River are connected to serious, sometimes fatal, accidents

"Kage always tried to live up to Kaleb's expectations," Darla McDonald said. "If Kaleb did it, Kage was going to try it." 

Lutt said he got to know Kage McDonald in elementary school. 

"He was just a super positive kid," Lutt said. "I enjoyed all my time with him. Always bright and always moving."

A trip that never was

Kage McDonald, left, with a friend. McDonald loved the Seattle Seahawks.

As Matt McDonald spoke by phone late Monday night he reflected on the weekend trip he and his son never got the chance to take. 

Kage McDonald's favorite team, Seattle, played in Minnesota the day before and he and his dad were supposed to be there. Matt McDonald bought tickets last week and planned to surprise his son and a friend by taking them. 

"(The boys) started trying to concoct a scheme to get up to the Vikings-Seahawks game," Matt McDonald said. "The boy's dad and I were talking about trying to not tell them and surprise them on Sunday." 

Kage McDonald, who had dreams of being an Olympic runner, had added playing wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks to his career goals recently. 

"Because he's a boy into sports ... he wanted to get into the NFL," Matt McDonald said with a chuckle. "That's just the way he was. You'd expect that from him." 

Kage's grandfather, Dave McDonald, loved taking his grandchildren fishing at Black Hawk Lake in Lake View, or up to Okoboji. Working around Kage's constant baseball, football, cross country or basketball schedules was tough. His wife, Darla McDonald, said they found serenity on the lakes, but after their grandson's death the grandfather questioned whether he'd ever go fishing again. 

She said he had to.

"You can't stop living," Darla McDonald said. "Kage will be with you every trip now."

Philip Joens covers breaking news for The Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at pjoens@registermedia.com or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.