All 129 of them.
A special Court of Honor was held recently to recognize Bills’ scouting achievement. He was presented with his final 10 merit badges, five remaining Eagle Palms (a total of 20) and the Silver Medal of Achievement for earning the last 49 merit badges,
Bills, a member of the Greenfield Ward of the Centerville Utah North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been working toward this goal for seven years.
He grew up in a family surrounded by Eagle Scouts; his father, grandfather and five uncles.
Bills started this journey by reading merit badge pamphlets with his father each morning at 6 a.m. to improve his reading abilities.
He tracked down every community merit badge course offered, including the American Red Cross, community merit badge programs, swimming and lifesaving at nearby pools and of course the fall Merit Badge Pow Wows at BYU. Bills’ eight year odyssey not only took him over mountains, through desserts, across lakes and under the ocean but even through the halls of the United States Congress.
“When we did the disabilities awareness merit badge, my dad made a few phone calls and the next thing I knew we were in Washington, D.C. with the Utah Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind at their national convention. We actually got to lobby Senator’s Hatch and Bennett, as well as all three Utah congressmen for three pieces of legislation favorable to the blind”. One bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
As Bills grew older he started assuming more personal responsibility for his advancement. “The first 40 or 50 badges are easier to earn,” he said.
When he started “cold” calling people out of the phone book, they responded with enthusiasm.
“While working on the truck transportation badge, I made a couple of phone calls and a man picked us up in his 18-wheeler semi-truck. After a tour of his trucking company he actually let me drive the semi. It was amazing,” Bills said.
“Another time,” Bills said, “We sat in on a Federal District Court felony trial as part of the Law Merit Badge.
Not only did the U.S. Attorneys and the defense attorneys come over to introduce themselves but when court recessed, U.S. 3rd District Judge Paul Cassals entertained us in his chambers and later personally called to inform me of the jury’s verdict.”
Many times people came to them. “We had a poster board with all of the unearned merit badges on it in the kitchen”, Bills said.
“My dad had a simple ceremony each time I ‘knocked a badge off the board’. People would ask about what we were doing and say, ‘hey I could help you with the surveying badge’ or ‘I’m a member of the electrician’s union. I’d be willing to help with your American labor merit badge’ and a week later we’d end up at a union meeting being introduced to the union leadership and taking a tour of their training center.”
Even an electrician working at the house saw the merit badge board and invited Bills to Benjamin, Utah to do the farm mechanics merit badge.
“It was really fun having farmers show us how to maintain farm equipment in the field and before it was over, the entire Benjamin LDS ward scout troop was earning the badge with us”, Bills said.
Perhaps the most significant event took place following a visit to the Humane Society as part of the dog care merit badge. When center workers mistook “Katie”, Bills Irish Setter for their Irish Setter named “Jake”, Bills and his father Chris became interested and ended up adopting Jake.
Two nights later at 2 a.m., Jake started growling and fidgeting. “I thought someone was in the house”, said Chris Bills.
“I checked, but everything seemed fine. Just after I got back into bed, Jake went ‘nuts’ again”.
A closer inspection revealed that Bills’ 84-year- old grand-father, Vaughn Bills, had locked himself out of the house with nothing on but his pajamas.
It was February and 2 degrees above zero outside. He would have frozen to death on the front porch before morning.
“I couldn’t believe it. My dad and I rescued Jake as part of a merit badge and Jake actually ended up saving my grandpa’s life,” said Bills.
In addition to completing his merit badge requirements, Bills graduated from Viewmont High School with high honors and a 3.81 grade point average.
“Earning all of the merit badges was really great. It was a lot of work but I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot about time management and breaking large goals down into small achievable pieces.”