Matt Lindbo started Scouting late, but he sure made up for lost time.
Lindbo, 19, a senior at Redwood Valley High School in Redwood Falls pulled off a feat that’s rarely been accomplished since the Boy Scouts of America was founded 109 years ago.
He earned every possible merit badge: 137 of them, from archery to wilderness survival. It takes three sashes to hold all of Lindbo’s badges.
“I looked at getting every merit badge kind of like getting a state title in sports,” Lindbo said. “I’m not a big athlete. So for me, that was my all-time high.”
Lindbo joined Cub Scouts in the first grade, a year later than other kids in his school. And right from the start he was a goal-setter. His Cub Scout pack sold popcorn to raise money, and Lindbo decided he’d sell $500 worth. He made his goal and raised it every year. By the time he was in Boy Scouts, he was setting records by selling nearly $10,000 worth of popcorn a year.
“Let’s just say I’m tired of popcorn,” he said with a laugh.
When Lindbo started in Boy Scouts at 12, he said he wanted to earn every merit badge.
“Everyone kind of looked at me like I was crazy,” he said. He became an Eagle Scout as he turned 16, which requires 21 merit badges, and kept earning more. As he turned 17, he had 48 badges and needed 89 more to get them all — and he had only a year to do it; Boy Scouts age out of the program at 18.
“I looked at my mom and said, ‘I’m only 89 away. I think I can do it,’ ” he said. With help from his family, Lindbo threw himself into what he called “my full-time job,” working on merit badges every day after school and every weekend. He traveled often to Fargo to log more time with a Scout troop there.
And one by one, he knocked off his badges: digital technology, farm mechanics, genealogy. He made it with two days to spare, earning his final badge — woodworking — two days before his 18th birthday.
“As he got closer, it got real exciting,” said Lindbo’s scoutmaster, Patrick Rohland, an Eagle Scout himself and also a Redwood County District judge. “It wasn’t until after he was done with it that I realized how truly amazing it was.”
The Boy Scouts don’t keep an official record of Scouts who have earned every merit badge. But Rohland researched it and figured that it’s been done no more than about 350 times by the more than 100 million boys who have been Scouts.
“He’s very persistent,” Rohland said. “Once he sets his mind to something, you don’t need to question it anymore. It just gets done.
“He’s one of those Scouts that makes being an adult leader so worthwhile.”
Lindbo is now a Scout leader himself, helping out with both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. This fall, he plans to attend Minnesota West Community and Technical College with an eye on a career in law enforcement.
“I am kind of giving back,” he said. “The Eagle Scout way is that you give back to Scouting, the way it gave to you.”