When Garret Polin slid down a steep, muddy slope into a small lake near North Bend during a training hike last year, members of his Boy Scout troop thought he was playing a joke...

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When Garret Polin slid down a steep, muddy slope into a small lake near North Bend during a training hike last year, members of his Boy Scout troop thought he was playing a joke. The boy, then 11, had a reputation for being a bit of a prankster.

But when Garret was underwater for 30 seconds, fellow troop member Will Maxson of Shoreline knew he couldn’t be joking. Will, wearing layers of heavy clothing and hiking boots, dived in.

He grabbed hold of Garret and, pushing off the bottom of the lake, kept Garret’s head above water until troop leaders arrived and pulled the boys out with 10-foot branches.

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The National Boy Scout Council awarded 13-year-old Will its Medal of Honor yesterday for saving the life of another Scout by putting his own life in danger.

Will’s Scout leader, Dave Nelson, whose involvement with Boy Scouts spans more than four decades, said he never has personally known anyone who received the award.

“It’s something that Scouts read about in Scouting magazines,” said Nelson, 51.

Will, however, doesn’t want the award.

“I don’t feel like I deserve it,” said the honors student described by Nelson as introspective and intelligent. “Any one of them would have done it for me.”

Will, who attends Einstein Middle School, goes on 50-mile hikes and reads The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly for fun.

Earlier this year, he asked for money in lieu of birthday presents. He raised enough to build a school in Cambodia, said his mom, Jan Maxson.

“He got it from his mom, I’m sure, but he has a good heart,” said Dave Maxson, Will’s dad. The father, a retired Coast Guard helicopter pilot, and his wife both teach special education at area schools.

Will has Asperger Syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder but views his conditions as his secret weapons.

“I see the ability to go out of focus as a benefit,” said Will, adding that he would like to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lauren Graf: 206-464-8345 or lgraf@seattletimes.com