June 1, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 128

Ironwood grad to appear on new TV series

Ironwood native and Luther L. Wright High School graduate Rachel Cattelan McDonald will appear on TNT’s new competition series “The Hero” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as one of nine contestants. The show premieres June 6 at 7 p.m. CDT.

Cattelan McDonald is a single mom to her 11-year-old son, Alijah, who is hearing impaired. He’s a straight-A student, and he tap dances and plays guitar. She has tried to teach him not to ever let anybody tell him he can’t do something because of his disability.

TNT’s tag line for the reality show is, “Strength, courage, integrity. All will be tested.” A promotional video on TNT’s website calls the show: “The summer’s most action-packed adventure series.”

The point of the show is to, “Discover America’s hero from nine ordinary people,” according to Johnson. “I’ve designed an epic competition. I wanted something that challenged people physically, psychologically, morally.”

Cattelan McDonald is one of the nine contestants, including three other women and five men.

Viewers will be asked to judge, according to Johnson. “They’re fighting to convince (the viewers) they have what it takes to be the hero. They compete. America decides.”

According to the website, Cattelan McDonald’s motto heading into competition is, “This day happened like it did so tomorrow can happen like it should.” She listed being a single mother as her biggest motivator, and her son as her personal hero.

She was born with a condition that caused the bones in her legs and feet to be misaligned, and doctors told her mother that she would never walk. She wore casts for years, but was determined to walk. “I kicked my brother with my casts and pulled myself up on everything. I was determined to walk despite what the doctors said,” she said.

Cattelan McDonald has lived in Little River, S.C., for seven years and works as a hip hop dance instructor/choreographer, Spanish teacher and basketball coach. She taught hip hop to underprivileged and at-risk youth, and realized that the kids needed more than just dance, so she started showing up an hour early to give the kids counseling. She also noticed that they needed shoes, so she started a charity called Sneaks for Dance Freaks, partnering with Adidas, and got the kids the shoes. “You can’t dance without the right shoes,” she said.

Being selected as a contestant and being on the show was pretty exciting, she said. The show was taped in Panama. Working with the Rock was pretty amazing, too, Cattelan McDonald said.

“He’s like a machine. He has a heart of gold, is genuine and caring. He handpicked all of us to be on the show. It was very cool to work with him,” Cattelan McDonald said. “He is in Budapest filming a new movie right now and he took the time to tweet about some of us on the show. He wanted to bring out the best in everyone.”

Cattelan McDonald decided to tell her parents, Patricia and Thomas Williams, of Ironwood, about being selected for the show in a special way. “I decorated a Christmas tree with the Rock’s face on it, and put pieces of the letter from TNT throughout the tree, and told my mom she had to put it together and read it. She flew about 10 feet off the couch when she put it together.”

Cattelan McDonald’s brother, Fred, also of Ironwood, is “going crazy about it,” she said.

Cattelan McDonald’s biological father, Ramon Cattelan, of Norway, Mich., had ceased contact with her after high school. They first spoke about three years ago, and he is realizing what he missed out on: Time he can never get back, Cattelan McDonald said.

“He’s very proud and happy. We had a cool reunion,” Cattelan McDonald said.

“The whole show has been an amazing, crazy experience,” she said.