A year ago, Liam England, 11, put his family lawn mower in the back of the car and his mother drove him to his grandmother’s house where he mowed the lawn.
“She has a normal, just pusher mower that’s really hard,” Liam said. “So we just folded the lawn mower up and put it in the car. Then we drove over there.”
Now there were only 49 lawns left for Liam to mow to complete Rodney Smith Jr.’s 50 Yard Challenge. Liam’s father inspired him to join.
“My dad just said, ‘Hey, there’s this 50 Yard Challenge. Do you want to do it?’” Liam said. “I just went, ‘Sure.’”
Smith, a Bermudan attending college in Alabama, felt God called him to mow lawns for free for the elderly, single moms, the disabled, and veterans when he saw an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn and he stopped and helped in 2015, according to CNN. Famously, he traveled to every state mowing lawns.
Then Smith created the 50 Yard Challenge to get young people involved in their communities because he couldn’t mow all of the lawns.
When someone submits a picture to Smith’s website, weareraisingmen.com, holding a sign that says, “I accept the 50 Yard Challenge,” they’ve joined him in the project. The program also counts raking leaves and shoveling snow the same as mowing.
After Liam submitted his picture, he received ear and eye protection and a shirt from Smith’s organization.
Liam wore the earplugs once before he lost them.
“They’re nice cause lawn mowers are loud,” he said.
However, one of Liam’s regular veterans named Carlos let him borrow his military-grade mufflers a couple of times. Liam thought those were the best.
Liam and his brothers, Peyton, 16, and Mathias, 13, switch off mowing the lawn at their home that trained Liam for Smith’s challenge. He said he doesn’t know which brother mows the lawn the best.
“I just do it and let my parents decide,” Liam said.
Kathie and Joseph England, Liam’s parents, were involved in the challenge from the start — specifically in finding lawns to mow.
They started with family, then neighbors, then it branched out from there and included Facebook.
Liam said his biggest lawn took him a little over an hour to mow. Some yards were more difficult than others.
“One yard was really hard,” he said. “It was big and there were like hills on it. And it was hard to get to the fence because when I was pushing it, it would like bring me down the hill.”
Liam thinks mowing 50 lawns is only “kind of fun,” and maybe only “kind of fun” in the hilly yard.
“Like on the hill and I’d fall down. It was kind of fun I guess,” he said.
However, some of the yard owners were fun when they talked to him — like the young veteran who gave Liam military shoulder patches when he finished mowing.
His brother, Peyton, helped him with the hardest yards.
“I would go until I was tired,” Liam said.
Then Peyton helped by finishing up in the back after Liam had mowed all the rest.
“It’s nice to be a part of something that helps out,” Peyton said.
Carlos, the veteran with the military-grade sound mufflers, became a weekly job for Liam.
“Carlos is a veteran in the army,” Liam said. “His back got hurt, so it’s hard for him to push his lawn mower cause he’s got a pretty big lawn. I did it every single week. He appreciated it.”
When Kathie told her son that Carlos was moving, he sounded sad.
“It was the last lawn I mowed,” Liam said.
Joseph said mowing lawns made his son stronger. But Liam questioned that point a little.
“The first time, I mowed Carlos’ whole lawn,” he said. “Now I can’t do it. It’s worn me out.”
After reflecting a moment, he decided differently.
“Well, it kind of did make me stronger,” he said.
Liam said morning is the best time to mow a lawn — and 9 a.m. is the perfect time.
“Because it’s not that hot,” he said. “I can just get it done and over with, and the rest of the day I have to play.”
Liam knows he has done a good job when the lawn is short.
Liam walked his lawn mower to homes that were up to three blocks away. However, Kathie played chauffeur, mom, and photographer during the challenge.
Kathie’s longest lawn mower drive was to Draper.
“My mom talked or read books on her phone while she waited,” Liam said.
Kathie tracked her son’s progress taking pictures on her phone to submit to the 50 Yard Challenge.
“She would come with us and take pictures of the lawn and like me doing it, and me with the person,” Liam said. The challenge also wanted before and after pictures of the lawn.
Liam completed the 50 Yard Challenge in May. Rodney Smith Jr. arrived at his house on July 9.
“My dad was looking out the window and saw him pull up. So I just walked out and I’m just like, ‘Hi,’” Liam said.
Smith congratulated Liam, then gave him a black lawn mower, a leaf blower, a weed eater, and four additional shirts to add to the shirts he received for every 10 yards he mowed that say “Raising Men Lawn Care Service — giving back to the community.”
The Englands found out that Smith was shy but still managed to learn he was traveling across the country mowing the lawns of people affected by breast cancer with a pink lawn mower.
After Smith’s visit, Liam’s sister, Mishay, 15, decided to accept the 50 Yard Challenge as well and picked up where Liam left off.
“I just figured that Liam was doing it, so I should do it, too,” Mishay said.
Her shirt says “Raising Women” because there are so many girls who want to participate.
So far Mishay has mowed seven lawns, and both she and Liam recognize the dangers of lurking bushes.
“There was this rose bush I didn’t realize was a rose bush, so I was trying to go under it and it tore up my hand,” Mishay said.
Yet, she’s motivated to finish the challenge by early summer 2020.
“It’s a way to serve people,” Mishay said. “It’s something that does not seem like it’s that huge. But for people that it’s difficult to mow their lawn, it is a big thing for them.”
The Englands may look into providing lawn mowers so that others can complete the challenges with the lawn mowers Smith gives for finishing. For now, Liam said people have to ask him permission to use his black lawn mower.
Liam feels proud he completed the challenge.
“It’s nice for people who don’t have time to do it, or can’t do it, and I’ve gotten to know the community better,” he said.
Liam isn’t done serving, either. He said he’s growing out his hair to donate to Wigs for Kids, an organization that donates wigs to children who suffer from hair loss because of cancer or other reasons.
When Liam grows up, he would like his children to do the 50 Yard Challenge as well.
“I mowed the lawns, so I guess you can, too,” he said he’d tell his children.