Stuttgart student marks rare achievement after earning every merit badge the Scouts offer
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 26, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — When 17-year-old Gavin Kisby moved to the military community here at the start of the school year, he had one piece of unfinished Scout business that needed tending.
Having earned the rank of Eagle Scout at 14, his goal was to eventually obtain every merit badge the Scouts had to offer — a rare achievement. This fall, there was one left — water sports — and he needed to find a Scout counselor and a place to get the job done.
“That was a tough one, but it turned out my neighbor across the street was a counselor,” said Kisby, who lives on Kelley Barracks where his dad is assigned to U.S. Africa Command.
After some instruction, Kisby recently received his last merit badge after successfully water skiing around St. Leoner Lake near Heidelberg.
The final merit badge was the culmination of a quest that began when he started the Boy Scouts as an 11-year-old.
The Boy Scouts do not keep an official record of all the members who have garnered every merit badge. But the website Merit Badge Knot has become an unofficial record keeper and puts the number at about 400. For perspective, the Boy Scouts of America has had more than 110 million participants since it was founded in 1910.
For Kisby, a student at Stuttgart High School, reaching the milestone has meant having to demonstrate proficiency in a wide range of skills. There are badges for everything from fire safety and first aid to cooking and bugling.
One of the toughest, Kisby said, was scuba diving because of the cost of learning the skill. So he started up a business, selling wreaths he made out of empty shotgun shells, to pay for it.
“All profit went to fees and gear for the badges,” said Kisby’s father, Doug.
The toughest for the family involved the ear-piercing hours that Gavin spent learning 15 different bugle calls. It took almost two years to earn the badge, Doug said. But the activities brought the family together.
“As the only boy in our family with four sisters, he made it a point to include them as much as possible too,” his father said.
Along the way, Kisby said the quest for all the merit badges has given him more self-confidence.
“I was shy and the merit badges forced me to open up. It helped me to talk with people,” Kisby said. “There’s a lot of commitment that goes into this.”
Meanwhile, through his work on the badges, Kisby said he discovered a love for working with his hands and metal. The welding badge made him think about a future career in welding. Either that, or a park ranger, he said.