NICEVILLE — The recipient of what Scoutmaster Fred Baldwin called the "most special award" presented at Monday's Court of Honor for Scout Troop 553 wasn't there to accept it.

But Abram Sitcer was there in spirit as his parents, Amanda and Kevin, and his 13-year-old brother, Bradley, accepted the Spirit of the Eagle on behalf of the young Scout amid quiet tears and gentle hugs. The Spirit of the Eagle, the most rarely presented award in Scouting, posthumously recognizes the contributions of Scouting members under 21 years of age who lost their lives in an untimely accident or illness.

Abram Sitcer died in April, at the age of 12, after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle through a Niceville roundabout. Abram and Bradley were riding as Abram pursued the physical fitness requirement for the Tenderfoot Scout rank. He would go on to earn that rank, and was also posthumously presented the Second Class Scout rank at Monday's Troop 553 Court of Honor.

The accident "took a great Scout away from us, and just a great kid in general," Baldwin said, his voice breaking as he presented the Spirit of the Eagle to the Sitcers.

"Our purpose tonight is not to mourn Abram, even though we all miss him very much, but rather to celebrate the golden Scouting spirit that Abram embodied," Baldwin added.

"He loved life," his mother said in an interview prior to the Court of Honor. "He loved to experience life, which is why I think he loved Scouts."

Speaking after the Court of Honor, Kevin Sitcer also noted his son's love of Scouting. And although he knows that in the coming years, Scouts will come and go from Troop 553, Sitcer hopes something of his son will remain with the troop.

"I hope they just have a lasting memory of him," he said.

That is, in fact, a lesson that Baldwin and other Scout leaders worked to teach Abram's fellow troop members in the days after his death. Part of the healing process, Baldwin said, was to teach the Scouts that "just because he's gone, doesn't mean we'll ever forget him."

"One of the really important things about Scouting is that it's a family," Baldwin said. And during his time in Troop 553, Abram "just kind of brought everybody together," Baldwin added.

In fact, even in his passing, Abram brought his Scouting family together. After his death, his fellow Scouts — not only from Troop 553, but from two other local troops, Troop 157 and Troop 1157 — got together to help him earn the Second Class rank presented to his family on Monday. Scouts from each of the troops picked one of the Second Class requirements that Abram hadn't been able to meet, and did the work to earn him the rank.

It was Abram's singular dedication to Scouting that prompted Baldwin to search for a special way to honor him at the Court of Honor, during which Scouts are presented with the merit badges, rank insignia and other honors they've earned. Talking with various Scouting officials, Baldwin learned about the Spirit of the Eagle.

One of the reasons that Abram earned the posthumous honor was the absolute certainty on the part of Baldwin and the young man's fellow Scouts that had he lived, he would have gone on to earn Scouting's highest honor, the rank of Eagle Scout.

One of those fellow Scouts is Alex Fotheringham, who was presented with his Eagle Scout rank at the Court of Honor.

"Abram was really fun to work with," Fotheringham said. In particular, Fotheringham remembered Abram's struggle with a physical fitness requirement involving push-ups. Finally, Abram was able to meet the requirement.

"He just kept trying," Fotheringham said, and it was that persistence that convinced him that Abram would have joined him as an Eagle Scout.

Even beyond Scouts, Abram Sitcer was a goal-oriented young man. He may have been only 12, but he already had a bucket list, according to his mother. The list contained dreams and plans both big and small: getting a job at Taco Bell, learning to do a back flip, getting his pilot's license, earning a diving certification, rebuilding a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air — and buying his dad a boat.

Just as with Scouting, Amanda Sitcer had no doubt that had her son lived to pursue his dreams, Abram would have met any challenge he set for himself.

"He was very persistent," she said. "He was very creative. He was just a solid kid."