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Teenager joins elite group of Boy Scouts to earn all 138 merit badges

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Posted at 9:38 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 10:26:42-05

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KTNV) — Cash Karlen isn't an average high school senior. He isn't even an average Boy Scout.

Karlen, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, recently became one of less than 600 people to earn their 138th Boy Scouts of America merit badge — the most badges any Boy Scout can currently earn.

He was recently honored at the Boy Scouts' Court of Honor event, which happens three times a year.

With no hesitation, Karlen said scuba was his favorite of the 138 merit badges he's earned. The hardest, he says, was bugling, but Karlen was up for the challenge. He went from having never played an instrument before to learning 10 different bugle calls.

According to the Boy Scouts' Las Vegas Area Council, there are more than 42 million Boy Scouts across America, with 2.5 million achieving the prestigious Eagle Scout rank. Karlen’s Boy Scout journey began in 2014, and he became an Eagle Scout four years later, in 2018.

Program director Bryce McCandless says Karlen's accomplishment is extremely rare.

"I’ve been involved in scouting and working with scouts since I was a teenager, and I’ve only ever seen one other scout achieve what he did. That was probably 10-plus years ago when there were even fewer merit badges than there are now," McCandless said.

Karlen's particular goal started as a challenge with his friends, but grew into much more, he said.

"You can always help people and you can always be of service to people. There are a lot of things you can do, even for yourself. Especially getting all these (badges), there are a lot of things that aren’t as daunting as you think they are. You just have to give it a shot," Karlen said.

The task was no easy feat. On top of doing 109 camping nights, 281 hiking miles, and 222 service hours, he had to travel all over the country to complete some of these badges.

"He’s a great example of service and servant leadership. That’s one of the core values we teach in scouting," McCandless said.

After graduation, Karlen says he wants to head to the University of Utah to study mechanical and biomedical engineering. He also wants to join the ROTC.

This story was originally reported by Bree Guy on ktnv.com.