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UPDATE: Boy Scout Brothers from Vienna Complete All 135 Merit Badges

Youngest brothers to earn every single badge, according to Boy Scouts.

Sean and Eric Grapin pause for a photo while hiking. Photo courtesy of Grapin family
Sean and Eric Grapin pause for a photo while hiking. Photo courtesy of Grapin family
(Editor's note: We've added a note from the boys' father at the bottom of the story, for detailed information on how the boys were able to accomplish their goals.)

Two Northern Virginia Boy Scouts, brothers Eric Grapin, 13 and Sean Grapin, 11, have accomplished what only a handful have accomplished before them: They have earned every Boy Scout Merit Badge. The boys are members of Troop 345, chartered by Wesley United Methodist Church in Vienna.

According to www.meritbadgeknot.com, 221 Scouts have completed all of the badges. Statistically, this accomplishment equates to 0.000004 percent, according to the scouts' Merit Badge counselor, John Moran.

More stats about the Grapin brothers' accomplishments, according to their Merit Badge counselor, Brian Kristal:

  • They are the first brothers from Northern Virginia to have earned every Merit Badge.
  • They are the youngest brothers to have done so.
  • Both are the first non-Eagles to have earned every Merit Badge.
  • Sean – at 11 years, 8 months, and 22 days – is the youngest Scout by at least two years to have done so.
The two boys recently met with counselor John Moran to sign-off on their final merit badge - their 135th. Last month, the two completed their Lifesaving Merit Badge (#134, and their second-to-last); and their final Backpacking trek.  

Their travels in reaching the goal of fulfilling every single merit badge have taken them to 17 states including:
  • as far west as Las Vegas (for several badges, including Golf)
  • Minnesota (for Welding and Search and Rescue)
  • Boston (for Stamp Collecting)
  • Phoenix (for Metalwork)
  • Atlanta (for several including Small-Boat Sailing)
  • and several other states 
Their Merit Badges also included Nuclear Science, Scuba Diving, Shotgun Shooting, Archery, Backpacking, Snow Sports, Veterinary Medicine, and three levels of Citizenship. 

The brothers say they would like to revisit or pursue some of the activities they experienced.  

For Eric, Shotgun Shooting tops his list of favorite activities; for Sean, it’s Horsemanship. The boys first got interested in Merit Badges after seeing an old BSA promotional poster titled The Merits of Scouting. 

Eric is looking forward to being a Counselor-in-Training at his council’s summer camp, and preparing for high school in the fall; Sean says he’d like to enjoy the summer, maybe try some more horseback riding, and visit his grandparents in California.

Troop 345 meets at Wesley United Methodist Church in Vienna. If you're interested in Boy Scouts, contact Be a Scout to find a pack, troop, ship, crew or team near you.

(Editor's note: The following is a response from Mark Grapin, the boys' father, regarding how the boys were able to complete the 135 badges.)

"First, I appreciate the respectful nature of the query - so many are predisposed to be dismissive of news such as this as "impossible" or "improbable," without first asking "how did you do it?"  

I'm an Army Aviator and Aviation Safety Officer by trade, with Aerospace Quality Engineering in my background. There simply isn't the luxury of time in a modern cockpit, let alone the cockpit of an Army Combat Helicopter, to do "just one thing at a time." 

Boy Scouting, as I've learned, is quite a bit like that cockpit - lots of moving parts, but very few have "don't do these two things as a single step" admonitions.  True, the earning-the-merit-badge clock can't and doesn't start until a boy bridges from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. 

For Sean, that clock started the afternoon of his tenth birthday - his Arrow of Light already in hand. Eric had already earned 40 merit badges when Sean bridged (the boys are 24-1/2 months apart in age, but only 14 months apart in Boy Scouting). 

And since Eric had demonstrated a sense of follow-through on his stated goal to earn every merit badge, it was his Scoutmaster at the time who suggested that Eric start noting in a spreadsheet of some sort the correlations of merit badge requirement to merit badge requirement. 

It didn't take Eric very long to figure out that if that correlative list were expanded to also include rank advancement requirements, and "other" things (such as the National Outdoor Activity Award categories, such as Hiking, Camping, Riding, and Aquatics), that it would be pretty simply to "line-up" an order by which merit badges and rank advancement requirements could be worked in tandem. 

Not all cases, just a huge majority of them.The boys' list, by itself, is kind of meaningless without a corresponding counselor or venue with which to earn the merit badge, demonstrate the necessary skills, and come away with the coveted signed blue card. 

And, not wishing to weather undue scrutiny, having his father's signature on a single blue card was simply out of the question. Add to that mix the desire to find "cool" venues, and true experts for the boys to meet with and learn from, and the mix suddenly becomes outright fun! 

To the calendar, though: For every soccer mom and baseball dad, tell me that your boy isn't at practice at least two nights per week, plus a game every weekend somewhere. For parents with a son in a band - particularly a high school marching band, tell me that commitment isn't doubled. 

Having raised our older daughter, and her penchant for basketball and volleyball, we understood the eight-nights-a-week routine. But apply this same level of effort to reading merit badge pamphlets, working on the prerequisites, tracking home chores, mowing lawns and walking dogs for their own home business, and the countless golf, scuba, archery, etc., lessons, and the time commitment footprint is pretty familiar ground.

Thank God for the Internet, and the fact that many venues that offer merit badge camporees and like events, are easy to find with a modest effort. And, since my wife likes the sport of shopping for a great airline bargain, the sphere of "where" becomes just about national. 

The boys are in a school that believes not all learning comes from between the covers of a textbook, and the boys are/were invited to give little "show-and-tell" presentations of each trip they went on. 

Not surprisingly, each of their teachers have noticed a greater ability of each boy to correlate what they're learning from those textbooks into what such things look like in person. 

Consider their visits to Tucson mines for the Mining in Society merit badge; their Open Water Certification and Scuba Diving merit badge to a fuller understanding of atmospheric pressure, and oceanic pollution; or ballistics learned in rifle and shotgun shooting merit badge requirements to a fuller understanding of Newton's Third Law; consider which plants you're walking past in the park that are poisonous to their Plant Science merit badge; and which spiders are beneficial to what sub-ecosystem in Insect Study; and the list goes on. 

By sheaving together the prerequisite preparation and actual working of merit badges concomitantly (think golf lessons for the Golf merit badge AND tracking home chores for that personal management merit badge), it's easy to make progress on several merit badges each week - some are simply more entailed than others. 

Basketry was more difficult than expected, and Backpacking topped the list for protracted difficulty.The day before Sean turned 11, he completed his 104th merit badge: Gardening. That required maintaining his garden for about 100 days - not just pushing the seeds into the Dixie cups. 

That averaged two merit badges, every week for the entire first year of his Boy Scouting journey. As a result of having recorded their impressions of the correlative requirements, relative difficulty, and approximate time required to earn each badge, the boys have compiled a pretty comprehensive list they regularly update and make available for the asking. 

My new Eagle, Eric, would be quick to tell you: "Once you get to the top, you gotta send the car down for the next Boy."Although BSA doesn't track such accomplishments, they appear to have at least been the genesis of it with the publication of their "Merits of Scouting" poster. 

 And, why not earn them all?  Eric remembers reading a quote from another boy who had earned every merit badge: "When I sit at a bus stop next to a stranger, I have more than a hundred things I can talk with them about."  

There's a lot of Scouting in front of the boys with everything from Nova-STEM to high adventure; serving as a Camp Counselor (and Counselor-in-Training), to Order of the Arrow (OA), and the list goes on. 

Their Den Chief service requires constant preparation, as do Eric's Senior Patrol Leader responsibilities. 

But both boys (and their mother) are already enjoying having some shift back to finding a church pew on a more regular basis, and really learning their band instruments - not to mention perfecting their free-throws, and just relaxing in their treehouse...but then, that's a whole other story...Hope the perspective and additional information helps. 

Yours in Scouting,

Mark Grapin
Mary Ann Barton May 15, 2014 at 02:30 PM
Hi, we've added a note to the end of the story from the boys' father, who goes into some detail about how they accomplished their goals.
Kevin Green May 15, 2014 at 05:22 PM
Fantastic! What a great family developing such focused and interested young men. From this story, it's hard to imagine them every bored - all through life. Well done, Mom & Dad!
Leah Cabral May 17, 2014 at 09:31 AM
This is an amazing accomplishment for the boys my son is in Boy Scouts as well, Mr. Grapin mentioned the amount of time spent on other activities are poured into scouting. My son don't want to do any other extra curricular activities, only want to focus in scouting but still struggled to get his ranking. If my son have a brother who will be with him to do things together most likely they will be working hard to get as much as they can. It is really different when you have somebody with you - the troop has a big factor because like my son he depends on the troop to be with him to do things. My Girl Scout's activities are not aligned with my Boy Scout. Never a boring moment for Grapin family - very true.
Rebecca Clark Dierssen May 20, 2014 at 04:17 PM
That averaged two merit badges, every week for the entire first year of his Boy Scouting journey. As a result of having recorded their impressions of the correlative requirements, relative difficulty, and approximate time required to earn each badge, the boys have compiled a pretty comprehensive list they regularly update and make available for the asking. My son would love a copy of this. How does he go about getting it?
Mary Ann Barton May 20, 2014 at 05:25 PM
Rebecca, you can send an email to the boys' father at: mgrapin@aol.com, and he will add you to an email list that is distributed re merit badges.

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