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Friday, July 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Teen meets challenges to become Eagle Scout

By Rachel Tuinstra
Times Snohomish County bureau

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Sam Roe, 15, waits to be introduced at his Eagle Scout award ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Roe was born with cerebral palsy but didn't allow it to hold him back in becoming an Eagle Scout: He refused to take any concessions allowed to those with disabilities.
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EVERETT — If the Boy Scouts gave out merit badges for perseverance, Sam Roe would have one more for his collection.

As it stands, the newly minted Eagle Scout has 31, more than enough to earn Scouting's highest honor. But the badge-covered sash the 15-year-old wore yesterday during his Eagle Scout ceremony aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln told only part of the story.

A very small part.

Under Boy Scout rules, Roe, who was born with cerebral palsy, could have had special accommodations made for his physical disabilities while he fulfilled the requirements for Eagle Scout. But Roe, who wears a brace on his left leg and has little control of his left arm, wanted to earn his badges the same as all the other boys — without any concessions.

To achieve the rank of Eagle, Scouts must earn at least 21 merits badges. Sam's 31 include those for rock climbing, wilderness survival and hiking.

"It took him longer than some of the other boys, but he earned every badge the hard way," said Roe's father, Arne Roe, an assistant scoutmaster for Everett Boy Scout Troop 114. "When he earned his wilderness-survival badge, he had to build his own shelter out of sticks and branches and he stayed there all night. He really has got perseverance."

And yesterday, as he stood in the gaping hangar bay of the Lincoln, Roe realized a second dream: to have his Eagle Scout ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier.

"It was perfect," said a smiling Roe as he glanced up at the American flag hung in the hangar bay in his honor. "I'm the son of a retired master chief, so I grew up with the Navy. I always wanted my 'court of honor' to be on the Lincoln."

Among those in attendance was Gov. Gary Locke, an Eagle Scout himself, who read the responsibilities the new Eagle would need to uphold. Locke, who earned the rank of Eagle in 1964, said he was touched by Roe's story and the invitation to attend the ceremony sent by Roe's parents.

"The Eagle charge includes the responsibilities of honor, duty and service, and also to remind him he is a role model. Once people find out you're an Eagle, they have higher expectations of you," Locke said. "Sam's accomplished some amazing tasks and he's in a very select group of people."

Locke said that less than 2 percent of Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle. Charles Rincon, scoutmaster for Troop 114, said Roe had taught valuable lessons to the other 50 boys in troop.
 
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"Sam has taught everyone in the troop courage, determination and patience," Rincon said. "He's touched my heart and my family's heart."

To earn the Eagle rank, a Scout must organize a community project. Roe's was in a place he had come to love: Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville, a nonprofit organization that uses horse riding to help physically or developmental disabled people. Roe, who has been riding at Little Bit since he was 6, organized and managed a project to repair a hole in the facility's roof, build racks and a storage area for its equipment and build new jumps for horses.

"When I first went there, I said, 'I won't ride a horse.' It was a big animal and I was 6 years old. But they made me," Roe said. "And I overcame that."

It wouldn't be the last obstacle Roe would face. His fellow Scouts said he never complained.

"He's always been part of the troop," said Steven Kerrigan, 19, an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 114. "He's never side-stepped anything or shied away from the requirements."

Rachel Tuinstra: 425-783-0674 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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