Archery badge: check. First aid badge: check. Coin collecting badge: check. …
And the list goes on for 18-year-old Elisha Gentry of Belfair, who last month accomplished one of the rarest feats in Scouting, even rarer than attaining Eagle Scout.
He earned all 133 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
Even more extraordinary, he’s one of two siblings to have run the table on merit badges. There’s nothing like a little brotherly competition and mentorship to spur a young man toward a goal.
“When I got my Eagle, I decided it would be a good goal to get,” said Elisha, who just finished high school as a home-schooler and will go to college in Arizona in the fall. “(Scouting), in general, has pretty much turned me into who I am today.”
Elisha’s journey began in 2005 as a member of Troop 1532 in Port Orchard, when he earned his first merit badge, for reading. Seven years and 132 badges later, he finally completed his goal.
He learned different skills while earning these badges, but he also learned quite a bit about himself.
Earning the scuba-diving badge forced him to overcome his fear of water. The rifle-shooting badge revealed his natural talent for firing guns. He learned he wants to become a civil engineer someday and that he has no future as a welder.
After so many experiences, Elisha said the one thing that stands out is the people who helped him along the way. They include college professors and foresters – and especially his brother, David.
In 2010, David earned the last of the 129 merit badges that were available during his time in the Scouts. Elisha took full advantage of his older brother’s guidance.
“For the past year, he was essentially a counselor for me,” Elisha said. “He was always there when I needed him.”
Whether it was a healthy dose of brotherly competition or helping Elisha earn his badges in kayaking and bugling, David’s guidance was instrumental.
“It was a worthy goal that both of us wanted to accomplish together,” said David Gentry, 19, who is home this summer after his freshman year at the University of Hawaii.
Elisha said that a year ago, with the deadline of his 18th birthday looming, his goal appeared out of reach and he considered giving up. Then he began earning merit badges at a feverish pace, including seven in his final month of scouting eligibility.
After earning his final merit badge, in bugling, with just a week to spare, Elisha could join his brother in rare company.
The four new badges that his brother didn’t have a chance to earn are in welding, robotics, kayaking and chess.
While Boy Scouts of America does not keep an official tally of people who’ve accomplished this feat, Troy Pugh has attempted to document it at meritbadgeknot.com. Pugh, from the central Washington city of Ephrata, has been able to confirm only 171 Scouts who have earned every merit badge.
To show how rare it is, he points out that fewer than 5 percent of scouts earn the highest rank of Eagle, which requires 21 merit badges. Pugh said fewer than 1 percent of Eagle Scouts earn every merit badge – which, by his estimation, is about 24 a year.
“If anything, Eli and his brother’s accomplishments means they set a goal far beyond any Scouting requirement,” Pugh said. “He isn’t in Scouting to just do things; he’s in scouting to learn and to explore.”