Best friends for as long as they’ve been old enough to have them, Ben Rood and Slater Sorensen both turned 14 on Saturday, a couple of overachievers who share more than a birth date.
Forged by Nerf sword battles, summer water fights and backyard campouts behind their Puyallup homes, Ben and Slater’s friendship includes a love of Scouting.
It led both to become Eagle Scouts at the young age of 13.
“I wanted to beat my brother, Paul, who became an Eagle Scout at 17,” Ben said. “And I wanted to do it before school got too hard and took all my focus.”
Slater said he was driven, too.
“I have a passion for Scouting. I want to achieve something great,” he said. “I’m a social person, and I love the guys in our troop. I’ll always live the Scout oath.”
Reaching Eagle is an accomplishment at any age: Last year, less than 4 percent of all Boy Scouts earned the honor, according to the website eaglecoach.org.
But to do it before turning 14 is something else altogether. The average age of an Eagle Scout rose from 14.6 years in 1949 to 17.1 years in 2012.
Eric Bowles, Ben and Slater’s scoutmaster with Troop 575, has seen the age trend first hand.
“I personally have not had them this young in my four years, but it’s not because it can’t be done,” Bowles said of his pair of 13-year-old Eagles. “A lot of Scouts are too busy with other things. Honestly, it’s a matter of procrastination.”
Slater’s father, Doug, is proud of both boys.
“They’re best friends, both good-hearted souls, and they love to help others,” he said.
Ben is more an old-fashioned Scout in his interests. Among the 27 merit badges he piled up before becoming an Eagle Scout (six more than the minimum requirement) were traditional badges for camping, archery, anything outdoors.
“The one that surprised me the most was for camping. I love to camp, but I didn’t realize how many methods there were, how many ways to stow and clean your gear,” he said. “I’m glad I got it. Now I can camp just to camp.”
Slater has a fascination with the arts that led him to badges in theater, music and chess – a reflection of his life away from Scouting.
He plays bassoon in the band at Stahl Junior High, where both boys attend, and bass guitar in a garage band that’s a work in progress. He also loves film.
“My first film was my brothers and I in sword fights,” he said.
“My next directing project is a superhero movie. Some people are working on the script. The hero is blind and uses music as an echo locator to move around.”
Ben’s Eagle Scout project?
“I built four enclosures for small animals at Northwest Trek, each of them 2-foot cubes,” he said. “They’re for off-exhibit, to give them shelter from the rain. I never did see the animals that will use them.”
And Slater’s? Building raised-bed garden boxes for the city of Edgewood. “Anything grown in them will go to food banks.”
The Sorensen and Rood families have been friendly for years, with the oldest boys, Paul Rood and Devon Sorensen, good friends throughout their lives. Ben and Slater, who became Eagle Scouts in a June 7 ceremony, have been friends in and out of uniform for nearly a decade.
“Ben is amazing. He’s my motivation in school. He’s been my best friend for a long time. If he says he’ll do something, you know he’ll do it,” Slater said. “And we’re both kind of crazy.”
Sitting beside him, Ben laughed.
“I was going to say the same thing!” he said. “We’ve been through many a campfire together.”
Their next climb up the Scouting ladder will allow both to explore leadership.
“Ben and I may become junior assistant scoutmasters, help teach others,” he said.
It would mean instructing Scouts who are years older than them.
“We’d be fine with that,” Ben said. “Helping somebody accomplish something they want is cool.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638