Why Rodney Smith is on a Mission to Mow Lawns in All 50 States

Raising Men Lawn Care Service founder and current college student, Rodney Smith Jr., 26, visits Highland, CA to provide free lawn care to a retired, disabled couple Sandra and Trink Koenig, to inspire youth to do the same nationwide. (Frank Perez/Correspondent)

Rodney Smith is on a mission to mow lawns in all 50 states, but his goal isn’t just about lawn care — it’s about letting people know he cares.

In 2016, Smith founded a lawn care nonprofit, Raising Men Lawn Care Service, in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. Raising Men Lawn Care Service helps young people give back to their communities. The kids in the program visit veterans, the disabled, the elderly, single moms and anyone who needs help doing yard work. They mow people’s lawns, shovel show, rake leaves and more — free of charge.

“In 2016, I saw a man mowing his lawn, struggling. So I got out of my car and helped him,” Smith tells CBS News. That moment inspired him to create the movement. He says at the time he was completing his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He began mowing lawns for those in need whenever he had free time. “I cut lawns in between classes,” he recalled.

Then he decided to start incorporating kids into the mission. He says about 60 kids in Huntsville have joined up, and that was just the beginning.

“It started in January [2016]… By April, we went viral, and ever since, it’s continuing to grow,” Smith says. He says he decided to expand the movement across the country when a woman from Ohio reached out to him. “She showed her grandson what we were doing in Huntsville and he wanted to join,” Smith says.

Smith says now 137 kids across in the U.S. have joined Raising Men Lawn Care Service, as well as one in Canada and seven in Bermuda and the U.K. to help out in their own communities.

“It took off pretty well, but the ’50 Yard Challenge,’ really made it big,” he says.

The 50 Yard Challenge is an idea Smith came up with to spread the word and the mission of his organization. He challenged kids to mow 50 lawns for people in need. The kids join by posting a photo of themselves on social media with a sign that says they accept the 50 Yard Challenge — and then they get to work.

Smith wanted to complete the 50 Yard Challenge himself, but he raised the stakes. He challenged himself to the “50 Yards in 50 States Challenge.”

Last summer Smith visited all 50 states in 39 days, driving to 48 and flying only to Hawaii and Alaska. He decided to embark on the journey for a second time this year, so on May 17, he began traveling all 50 states again.

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SOURCE: CBS News, Caitlin O’Kane