On the 24th of August, Lee Roche tripped on another student while playing basketball in gym class and fell on his wrist, breaking it. At first, he didn’t even realize it was broken. It felt like other times he’d fallen and caught himself, and he was still able to apply some pressure to it. But when he went to his baseball game and tried to catch, he realized something was wrong.
A Heart of
By Devin Haas
Lee plays baseball and basketball and has also played soccer. As a sixth grader, he’s far from a professional athlete, but his scaphoid fracture was still a considerable setback to his athletic progress. Basketball tryouts were around the corner, but Lee couldn’t play and was benched. Still, Lee remained in good spirits and attended every practice and game during his recovery. He told me that there have been other times he was benched because he was tired or other players were performing better, so he’d already accepted he wouldn’t always be able to play when his injury occurred.
As I listened to Lee recount the ordeal of his injury, I was struck by his commitment to continue supporting his team even while on the bench. Lee enjoys challenging himself with sports and is proud of his accomplishments— including winning several trophies—but he is principally a member of his team. And being a teammate doesn’t stop when he’s off the court. Lee cares about being a supportive friend, and even though he’s just moved to Momence from Joliet, he’s thankful that he’s already made some good ones. He told me that he didn’t have as many friends when he was in second and third grades, and when asked what advice he would give to his younger self, he said he would say to stay positive, stay active, and stay alert for opportunities to make new friends.
Lee comes from a military family, and he hopes to continue their legacy of service. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served in the armed forces—his father is still in the Army reserves—and Lee hopes to serve in the Navy or Marines after he finishes school. Lee described his father as “very nice, fair, caring, and easygoing,” and his influence on Lee seemed very apparent from our interview. Lee struck me as impressively caring for his age, from asking how I was doing to saying, without a moment’s hesitation, that he would use one magic wish to stop “racial abuse and world hunger.” He cares about people: his family, his teammates, and people a world away he’s never met but knows are hungry.
Lee hopes he can continue to stay close to his family while serving in the military, and he hopes to one day share an apartment with his older brother, a 13-year-old computer whiz. Lee’s aspirations for the future—whether serving his country or living with his brother—always involved other people as well as himself. With his service, care, and thoughtfulness, I am sure that Lee will continue to be not only a great member of many teams in the future, but a leader in his own right.