EAGLE — Truck Transportation, Stamp Collecting, Robotics, Archaeology, Fingerprinting, American Labor: These are just a few of the 137 merit badges that young people can earn in the Boy Scouts of America’s Scouts BSA program.
Fifteen-year-old Eagle twins Blake and Tyler Nelson have earned all of them; yes, every one of the 137 merit badges.
A spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America called it an “incredible” feat.
“By earning every merit badge available, Blake and Tyler have undoubtedly gained knowledge and experiences that will help them succeed now and throughout their lives,” said a statement from the organization, which has had more than 110 million participants since its founding in 1910. “We congratulate them on this impressive achievement.”
The journey — learning to scuba dive, start a business and respond to electrical emergencies, among many other things — began four years ago, with a challenge from their father.
“Our dad was talking to us in the beginning, when we were 11,” Tyler said in a recent interview. “He was saying how his dad challenged him to earn all the merit badges and he never did — he got, like, 40.”
Each badge represents a skill or subject knowledge attained through practical experience and guidance from an expert. The expert, or counselor, signs off on the badge once every requirement is met.
The twins, who regularly finish each other’s sentences, decided to earn all the badges together.
Tyler said the race was “really competitive at one point,” when Blake earned a badge without him, which Blake sarcastically called a “scandal.” Ultimately, they decided to work in tandem, helping each other along, badge after badge.
“The really great thing about having a twin, or even a brother, is that they push you and motivate you to keep going,” Blake said. “If Tyler wasn’t earning them with me, I probably would have given up a long time ago.”
Blake said the badges vary in difficulty, from writing a report on career opportunities in a given field, to training and caring for a dog for two months.
The latter was the 137th and final badge, which they recently received. Their mother, who mostly is responsible for transporting her sons to weekly troop meetings and merit badge activities, was hesitant about this particular badge.
But she gave in.
“We were at 136 merit badges, we were like ‘We have to do it now,’” Tyler said.
The twins each had to log how much food they gave the dog, explain its anatomy, propose three career opportunities in animal care, demonstrate first-aid for a dog and train it to respond to three commands.
Blake and Tyler are hoping Cosmo, their new 6-pound Havanese puppy, can stay.
The Dog Care badge was up there, but not their favorite. Tyler said his favorite was archaeology. It involved exploring a 1944 plane crash, from the crash site itself to local media documenting the crash at the time.
“It was really cool,” Tyler said.
For Blake, the Entrepreneurship badge piqued his interest. The requirements involved developing a business plan and executing it. He now wants to be a businessman or a doctor — a result of the Medical badge.
“That’s the value of merit badges,” Blake said. “Because they expose you to all these different careers, professions, hobbies, interests, you learn whether you like them or (you) don’t. I learned I don’t like pottery. We’ve been exposed to 137 different merit badges … so I now have a much better idea of what I want to be in the future.”
The twins are on the verge of becoming Eagle Scouts, the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program. They have completed their Eagle Scout projects — Blake led a book drive for the Eagle Public Library and Tyler organized a tennis clinic for underserved children — and all other requirements, and are awaiting finished paperwork from the national organization to make it official.
But their father’s merit badge challenge isn’t over yet. The twins said Boy Scouts of America typically releases new badges each year. Tyler and Blake are determined to collect every badge available. And, believe it or not, there’s still room on their sashes for more badges.
“There’s three more coming…” Tyler started to say.
“Four,” Blake cut in. “If those come out, we’ll go try and earn them.”