WHITEHALL, Mich. — Becoming an Eagle Scout is a great honor, the top rank with Boy Scouts of America.
For Ben Hayes, becoming an Eagle Scout at just 13 years old last year just wasn't a big enough accomplishment. Last week, he completed his goal to earn every single merit badge the Scouts have to offer.
That's 139 badges; a feat only half of 1% of Scouts accomplish.
"I feel amazed how much I accomplished over the past few years," said Hayes.
His favorite badge is the Railroad badge — earning it sparked a love for locomotives, and because of it, he plans to be an engineer one day.
His mother, Rebecca Shannon, said Boy Scouts changed Ben's life.
"He was just kind of shut down to begin," said Shannon, "No one thought he’d do anything. He’s on the spectrum. Successful level wasn’t there. But merit badges are independence. You do it on your own speed."
Ben also completed a project to put AEDs in outdoor areas, so families could take children to play places they couldn't before, he said.
"I used to get bullied a lot," said Hayes, "But when I got to Scouts, everybody was so kind to me."
One of the most challenging badges to earn forced him to face his fear: swimming. He conquered that and learned to swim, earning him the badge.
Not only does he have all the badges, but a book full of patches as well.
He said he had "all the people who encouraged me to keep going. My scout leader, my friends, even my mom."
The final badge he earned last week was for golf.
"A lot of people say the ones who try to get them all are just trying to get them," said Shannon, "But he’s learned a lot."
Ben is not done with Scouts now he has earned all the badges. Now, he plans to help his troopmates make the same accomplishment.
"It's a Scout way to help things," said Hayes, "A Scout is helpful, curious, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, clean and brave."
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