Conquering all obstacles

Leanne Roe recalled watching her son, Sam, as he slowly inched his way up a 40-foot-high climbing wall two years ago.

He was determined to earn a merit badge in rock climbing, and though cerebral palsy limited the use of his left hand, he kept moving toward the top.

To his mother, that wall looked 100 feet high.

“My hands still sweat thinking about it,” she said.

Sam made it to the top.

On Thursday, he scaled another summit. The 15-year-old Everett boy achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, a feat accomplished by only two out of every 100 Boy Scouts.

Sam’s Eagle Court of Honor – the traditional ceremony held to welcome new Eagle Scouts – was held in a hangar bay on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Gov. Gary Locke, who earned his Eagle Scout badge in 1964, praised Roe for his inspirational quest.

Locke recalled how Sam earned a merit badge in hiking by making it to Monte Cristo through snow without any help.

“Life is full of obstacles, and success is about overcoming them,” the governor said.

“Sam, we are so very proud of you,” Locke said. “You are proof that a spirited heart, a determined mind and a courageous soul can accomplish anything. And we all look up to you with awe and admiration.”

It takes 21 merit badges to become an Eagle Scout. Sam earned 31 – enough to have his Eagle badge decorated with bronze and gold palms.

For his service project, the boy led a group of two dozen Scouts as they built new storage facilities at Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville. Sam has ridden horses there since he was 6 years old.

Though the Boy Scouts make special accommodations for those who have disabilities, Sam didn’t request special treatment on the path to becoming an Eagle Scout.

“He did it the hard way, like everybody else,” said his father, Arne Roe. “He can do these things. It just takes him longer.”

Roe, a retired Navy master chief petty officer who spent 33 years in the military, said his son grew up surrounded by the Navy. Sam went to his first squadron party when he was just 5 months old.

Two years ago, Sam told his father that he wanted his court of honor on the Lincoln. Arne Roe thought it was wishful thinking.

But in November, when Sam met the requirements for Eagle Scout, he reminded his dad about his wish to become an Eagle on the “Abe.” His father started making phone calls.

Sam’s patience paid off yet again.

Before a large crowd of friends, family and fellow Boy Scouts from Everett’s Troop 114, Leanne Roe pinned the Eagle medal over her son’s heart.

The Scout’s smile lit up the hangar bay as Scout leaders fought back tears, squeezing words of praise through frog-filled throats.

“You have touched my heart,” said Scoutmaster Charles Rincon.

Then, among a steady stream of handshakes and congratulations, the Eagle Scout summarized his latest achievement simply.

“I’m so happy,” he said.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or

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