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Rodney Smith, Jr. Took It Upon Himself to Help Veterans and the Disabled With Their Lawns. He's Now Inspiring Kids Across the Nation With His 50 Yard Challenge

Rodney Smith, Jr. Took It Upon Himself to Help Veterans and the Disabled With Their Lawns. He's Now Inspiring Kids Across the Nation With His 50 Yard Challenge

By Stacey Lindsay
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When we take notice, connection happens. A seconds-long smile at a stranger can lead to a sense of feeling seen. A wave across the road can lift spirits. And, in the case of Rodney Smith Jr., stopping to help someone who is struggling can result in helping not just one, but countless people.

In 2015, Smith Jr. was on his way home from school in his Alabama neighborhood when he noticed an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. Smith Jr. stepped in to help that man complete the job. That moment put something into clarity: If that man was challenged in taking care of his property, others were too. So Smith Jr. started mowing the lawns of elderly people, veterans, and those with disabilities. He aimed to mow 40 lawns, but he quickly well surpassed that number.

This all resulted in Smith Jr.’s non-profit, Raising Women and Men Lawn Care, an organization that fosters growth and community in young women and men by providing them an opportunity to give back. Volunteers take part in mowing lawns for those who do not have the resources or time to care for their yards.

“I'm seeing these kids stepping up, wanting to get out there, wanting to give back, and wanting to help those in need,” Smith Jr. tells me over the phone.

Part of the fun is that the kids get to take part in the Raising Women and Men Lawn Care 50 Yard Challenge. Created for kids 7- to 17-years-old, the challenge charges kids with a feat: Cut 10 lawns for those in need, and you win a t-shirt. Cut 20, and you win a green shirt. The count continues up to 50, which earns kids a brand new lawn mower, weed eater, and a blower. The turnout has been incredible, says Smith Jr.

“A lot of kids do the 50 Yard Challenge and take the brand-new lawn equipment that they earn and start a business,” he says. “And they still mow for those in need.”

Rodney Jr. wants all kids across the country to consider taking part in the challenge. But it doesn’t stop there. For anyone who’s searching to connect and help their community, he says to look up and around.  

“If you're good at something, if you have a passion for something, use that passion to find a way to give back to your community. There are so many ways to give back. I simply chose a lawn mower. Well... a lawn mower chose me.”

Stacey Lindsay

A senior editor of The Sunday Paper, Stacey Lindsay is a multimedia journalist, editorial director, and writer based in San Francisco.