Few Boy Scouts could even name all 137 of Scouting’s iconic merit badges, but this Altamonte Eagle Scout earned every single one.
Altamonte’s Charlie Torbert isn’t quite one in a million, but he’s really, really close.
In the 109-year history of the Boy Scouts of America, about 2.5 million young men have earned the rank of Eagle Scout.That’s impressive enough, as only about four percent of Boy Scouts ever make it to Eagle, usually with a sash full of Scouting’s iconic merit badges over their shoulders. Of those 2.5 million Eagle Scouts – already the very best of the best – only 420 have achieved the prestigious rank while earning all 137 of those badges. And Charlie is one of them.
“Once he got his first badge, it was a rush,” says Charlie’s dad, Ron. “He said, ‘I’m going to get every one.’
And that’s just what Charlie did. To get there, Charlie has done just about everything, from building his own shelter deep in the woods to white-water rafting in the rivers of Colorado. He’s scuba dived in Florida parks, fly-fished in Georgia, and studied reptiles in West Virginia. And all that was good for just five of the 137 badges.
Charlie’s first badge, in moviemaking, was earned in March 2017. The last one, in backpacking, came this past spring.
Charlie is a 13-year-old eighth grader at Teague Middle School. He admits that, in the very beginning, he had some self-doubt about whether he could achieve his ambitious goal.
“But, then, I just reassured myself, yeah, I can make it,”Charlie says.
The 137 merit badges are optional, but to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a community service project is required. Charlie’s involved the restoration of a run-down, overgrown basketball court at Bear Lake United Methodist Church, where he took part in Cub Scout activities. Charlie led a volunteer crew to refurbish the court so that Scouts and other kids could enjoy it once again.
“He was ready to go and willing to do it,” says Keith Rimmer, a Cub-master and 23-year member of the church.
Charlie’s father was an Eagle Scout, himself, and has been an indispensable partner in Charlie’s endeavors, as was Ron’s fiancée, Julie.
But oddly enough, Ron wasn’t sold right away on the idea of Charlie joining the Scouts.
“I tried to discourage him,” Ron admits.
The reason: While living in Texas, Ron became involved in the Boy Scouts with Charlie’s older brother, Ronnie, and found that parents had become much too heavily involved in the program.
“I wanted Charlie to get away from me and be a boy and have fun with other kids,” Ron says.
Fortunately, in our community, the family found a Scouting program more in tune with Ron’s own childhood experiences. There were certainly no parents doting over Charlie and a few fellow Scouts during wilderness survival training at Camp La-No-Che, the Boy Scout camp in Paisley, Florida, just outside the Ocala National Forest.
“They said, build something to sleep in,” Charlie says. “They let us bring our sleeping bags, and that was all.
Charlie built a lean-to shelter against a tree out of palm fronds. Fortunately, it did not rain.
Some of Charlie’s merit badges took a day or two to complete. Others took weeks and even months, such as the citizenship badge, which involved library research and correspondence with lawmakers.
Scouts have to earn at least 21 merit badges to make Eagle. A typical Scout’s sash holds about 60 or so of the round patches. Charlie required a custom-made sash to fit all 137 of his badges. Meanwhile, he has won dozens of other Scouting awards, many of them involving aquatics.
Charlie says his Eagle Scout project was his way of giving back to the Cub Scouts. The long-neglected basketball court at the church was black from dirt and algae, and the backboard was broken. Charlie and his fellow volunteers removed overgrown trees and shrubs, pressure-washed the court, added fencing and a bench, replaced the broken backboard, and repainted the court lines.
Now, the neighborhood kids are coming over to use the court once again, says Keith.
“I’m glad it got done,” he says. “It looks great!”
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