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The 50 Yard Challenge

I grew up mowing lawns in my hometown of Ash Grove, Missouri. My dad provided me with a riding and trim mower that I could use to mow other yards, that is, if I cut our lawn when asked—and without complaint. For seven years, I had ten yards within a half-mile of my home that I mowed. When I started, I was getting five bucks a yard. In 1979 that seemed like a fortune! I cut more than 1,400 yards during that period. Mowing taught me how to run a business and gave me experience with hard work, planning schedules, quality control, customer service, and even learning some of the mechanics of an engine. That experience makes me love the Raising Men & Women Lawn Care Service 50 Yard Challenge even more! Besides being a tangible way for youth to get involved with helping their neighbors, the 50 Yard Challenge also teaches youth the value of hard work. It does all this while providing a valuable service for those who often have difficulty mowing their yards. The group behind the 50 Yard Challenge (Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service) is an Alabama-based non-profit that encourages boys and girls nationwide to offer free lawn mowing to the disabled, veterans, elderly, and single moms. The challenge is open to boys and girls anywhere in the United States, ages 8-17. If a child accepts the challenge, they must send the non-profit a picture of them holding a sign saying, "I accept the 50 Yard Challenge." In return, the organization will send the child a shirt, safety glasses, and ear protection. As participating youth mow yards and document them, the organization sends these junior mowers a different colored T-shirt for every 10 yards mowed. Once the child completes the challenge with 50 mowed yards, the founder of Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service delivers them a brand-new lawn mower, weed eater, and blower. Individual donations and sponsoring companies fund the T-shirts, travel expenses, and mowers. More than 4,400 kids have mowed yards because of this program. Since it began in 2015, some 23,000 lawns have been mowed. Young people from all 50 states are involved this year. Another challenge requirement is for participants to find the lawns to mow. The program founder wants to inspire youth to go out and meet people they likely would not have otherwise met. This is a perfect opportunity for youth to get to know their neighbors. Youth have found lawns to mow in numerous ways. They (with the help of their parents) have posted their free services on neighborhood Facebook groups and the NextDoor app. Some youth have posted in the classified section of newspapers and hung up signs around their community. Youth can also connect with their Homeowners Association, Neighborhood Association, or their local city government. These organizations are often responsible for reporting or citing home owners with unmowed lawns. It would be a great service to everyone if they would contact participating youth in the neighborhood to help out in these situations. It’s a win-win solution! If you lead a youth group, a Boy Scout troup, or a 4-H club, you can help young people get connected to this challenge by making sure they have a lawn mower and some ideas on getting lawns to mow. Rodney Smith Jr. started mowing people's yards for free in 2015. He challenged himself to mow yards at no charge for older people, single moms, and disabled people. "I'm capable of cutting grass because I'm young. I'm able. A lot of elderly people are unable," Smith said during an interview. "My first goal was to reach 40 lawns. But I reached 40 lawns in a month and a half. Two months later, I reached 100." Smith graduated from Alabama A&M University with a master's degree in social work. He is originally from Bermuda. He started the program while still in college; now it is his full-time work. Raising Men & Women Lawn Care Service is a 501c3 headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama. Smith said he is pleased—and a bit surprised—at how his program is spreading. "I hope it teaches youth that it is good to give back," said Smith. "And that it teaches them good morals and how to be a good citizen." To sign up or donate, go to https://weareraisingmen.com.

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