In my spare time, I volunteer as an adult leader for my son’s Boy Scout Troop. Mostly, my work has been in communications and managing their Web site, but earlier this year I took on the role of Scoutmaster. I inherited a good Troop with a strong leadership committee and an even more robust advancement program. We have a lot of motivated boys, driven by goals and the desire to provide service to their community. I also inherited John Rosher.
If there was a contest to find a poster boy for Scouting, John would certainly be a finalist. He’s a very good student, participates on his school’s soccer and track teams, plays saxophone in the school music programs, and does it all in a very quiet and unassuming way. In 2011 and just 13 years old, he earned his Eagle Scout rank (which requires 21 merit badges), something only 4-5% of all boys who become Boy Scouts accomplish. The Scouting program forces boys out at the age of 18, so John had five years to do something else.
John asked his dad how many merit badges he had earned when he was a boy. His dad had earned 54, so that became John’s goal and a number he quickly passed. “I knew he was serious when he signed up for the Public Speaking badge,” says his dad, Jim Rosher, also an Eagle Scout. “He said ‘I don’t know anything about it and I want to learn.’ I knew then that he was really going to pursue this goal.”
Last week, John finished Animation and Signs, Signals & Codes, bringing him to just one final, uncompleted merit badge: Bugling. Despite years of training in the delicate art of saxophone, John sat outside our Monday meeting with his counselor trying to coax an altogether different style from a trumpet. It was a challenge (and helped prove why Bugling is a top 10 least-earned badge), but he got it done. The following week, this past Monday, we honored John at our Court of Honor for earning every merit badge that Boy Scouts have to offer — currently 136, plus one more that he’d earned but has since been retired.
Along the way, John had learned about Automotive Maintenance, Nuclear Science, Robotics, Camping (or course), Geocaching, Space Exploration, Insect Study, Sustainability, Game Design, and many, many more. As I stood before my Troop on Monday, I explained how incredibly rare John’s accomplishment was. Although the national Boy Scouts office keeps no official record of how many boys have earned all the merit badges, an unofficial registry estimates that in the 105-year history of Scouting, fewer than 300 boys have completed this accomplishment.
In the end, it ended up being a family effort. On a trip to Tanzania, John climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his mother to finalize the Backpacking merit badge. His sister pitched in to stitch together a merit badge sash large enough to hold all the badges. Still, his dad points out that, while the family was happy to help out when needed, they were hands-off in pushing John along. It was entirely John’s will and drive that got him across the finish line, earning about two and a half merit badges each month for four and a half years. “I remember some Friday nights where I really wanted to go out but I had to talk myself into working instead,” says John. “It helped shape my time-management skills and self-discipline.”
John will turn 18 in February next year. He plans on earning any merit badges that come along between now and then, but his next goal is to pay back all the Scouts and leaders who helped him on his journey by becoming an adult leader and, in turn, helping younger Scouts. As a leader, I am very proud of John. As a Scouter, I am amazed at his accomplishment.