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Inspiring kids ‘one lawn at a time’ – KION546

Gabriel Kinder, CNN

Anyone who has a hard time convincing a child to mow the lawn may want to get the help of Rodney Smith Jr.

Over the past five years, he has encouraged thousands of young people to reap dozens of yards in the community for free, often for those they just met.

How does Smith do it? He sets an example and leads.

Smith, 33, is the founder of Fostering male and female lawn care services In Huntsville, Alabama. He and the organization’s volunteers help the elderly, people with disabilities, single parents, veterans, and anyone else who may need it.

“The mission of my life is to give back,” he said. “Especially to those who need it most.”

In 2017, Smith decided to adopt this idea nationwide. He personally mowed at least one lawn in all 50 states for free.

Since then, he has completed 10 US tours to raise awareness about causes such as breast cancer and veterans’ problems. On these tours, Smith mowed the grass with a custom-painted lawn mower, finally auctioned it, and raised money for the relevant charity.

Smith’s “Mowing with Cops” tour invited members of the community to mow the lawn with local cops. He used a lawnmower decorated like a police car and donated to the local police station so that he could continue to build these relationships after Smith’s tour.

“When I first started the organization, I didn’t really have a clear vision,” he said. “But when it started to move forward, I realized that the vision was to encourage children.”

Smith decided to turn his tour into an exercise he called the 50-yard challenge. He called on young people across the country to mow 50 lawns in their communities. Smith sends participants a T-shirt with ear and eye protection. The kids then post pictures of the mowed lawn and send every 10 T-shirts in different colors by Smith.

“And when they mow 50 lawns, I drive them wherever they are and present them with brand new lawnmowers, weed eaters, and blowers,” he said.

To date, Smith said more than 2,000 children are enrolled in the United States and eight other countries. He believes the pandemic helped encourage more young people to sign up. This year’s reaction was so strong that Smith said new registrations had to be terminated at 600.

For Smith, it’s all about “making a difference on one lawn at a time” for children.

“Many of the people we reap … use bonds, so if we can reap for free, they can use their real money for food, medicine, and what they really need. . “

One of the requirements for the 50-yard challenge is for participants to find and mow their lawn. This is important for Smith who wants to get out and encourage people to meet people he wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Smith shared the story of 16-year-old Wesley from Michigan, who participated in the 50-yard challenge three times.

Wesley’s mother told Smith that he was a shy kid and kept protecting himself when he began the challenge. But when Wesley began to meet the reaped veterans, he learned their stories and made new friendships.

Encouraging children to open up is part of Smith’s vision for the challenge.

“This program has had a positive impact on his life,” he said. “So you brought such children like Wesley all over the country.”

With the success of Smith’s efforts, it may be hard to believe that mowing the lawn was a chore he hated to grow. It changed during his fourth year of college when Smith found an old man struggling to mow the lawn and pulled to help him. That night, Smith decided to start mowing for free for those in need.

“God took what I didn’t like and turned it into what I wanted to do now,” he said.

Smith has no plans to stop immediately. He wants to extend his 50 state tours to all seven continents. He also wants more young people to participate in the 50-yard challenge by growing the organization to include branches across the country.

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