What better way for a young man or woman to learn about duty, responsibility and obligation than to accept the “50 Yard Challenge?”
That is what Trey Hill thought when he saw the RM/WLCS webpage.
Those letters stand for Raising Men/Women Lawn Care Service, a not-for-profit group out of Alabama, that challenges kids — and their parents — to provide free lawn care for the elderly, disabled, single moms and veterans.
“My dad found some information about the 50 Yard Challenge on the internet and tried to register me, but the program was full,” recalled Trey’s 14-year-old son, Caleb, “but I still thought it would be good to do it anyway.”
The Atascocita High freshman lives in Pinehurst with his dad, who is a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Kingwood, and his mom, who works for Insperity. Together, Caleb and his dad crafted a post and placed it on Facebook and on Nextdoor, the online neighborhood news and information platform.
“Do you know someone who needs their yard mowed for free?” Caleb and his dad wrote. “My son has committed to giving back to his community … the yard will be completed entirely for free.”
The incentive for Caleb was for every 10 yards completed, he would earn points used to purchase his own equipment and, once he completes 50 yards, “We will purchase equipment to be used to potentially start his own jobs,” the post said.
“I really saw a need for free lawn care when we were talking at home about how some people aren’t able to take care of their homes because of health or time issues,” said Caleb.
His dad helped in the beginning, taking Caleb to each yard, mostly in Atascocita, since that is where they live, making sure the yards were mowed correctly.
“Some of the people want me to use their lawn equipment, so I can ride my bike to their home,” Caleb said.
Getting to know the people whose lawns he cuts has been an educational revelation for Caleb.
“I have met some people who have health difficulties and just need a little help,” he said, “and I have made some new friends, too. Mowing lawns has taught me about additional responsibility, too.”
And that responsibility includes the worthwhile goal of keeping the “customer” happy, even when the service is free.
“There is one older couple I have met who are really nice and I would like to continue to do their yard weekly,” Caleb said. “The husband has had some health issues and can’t mow — but he wants his lawn cut in a very specific way, but he is very kind.”
A few people who responded to the Nextdoor post didn’t realize that Caleb is just mowing lawns.
“One asked my dad about me helping him dig holes to find electrical wires, but he quickly told them that wasn’t what the 50 Yard Challenge is all about, and not the type of work I should be doing,” Caleb said.
At this point in the “challenge,” Caleb is at the halfway mark.
“His capacity has slowed significantly since going back to school and all of his extracurricular activities,” said his dad.
If he is not scouting out lawns that need care, Caleb can be found on the soccer field.
“I play soccer for the Houston Dynamo club and for Atascocita High, and I am a soccer referee, if I am not on the field,” he said. “I really enjoy everything about soccer, but I enjoy video games, too. I am building my own computer — which is one reason I am earning money. And I enjoy hanging out with my friends, too.”
Caleb also is learning the art of asking the right questions and making sure things are completed correctly the first time, skills that many adults have yet to learn.
“I did learn that putting the wrong fuel in someone else’s lawn mower can be really bad,” Caleb admitted. “My dad pointed out that mixed gasoline has pictures displaying what can be put in a mower.”
And, sometimes, being creative, well, doesn’t always make the work any easier.
“I got a garden cart and put chains on my bicycle to load up the lawn equipment and try to cut yards in the neighborhood — but my setup didn’t last long,” he said.
The 50 Yard Challenge got its start in 2016 when Rodney Smith, a Bermuda native who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, noticed an elderly gentleman struggling to mow his lawn. Smith stepped in and finished the lawn for him. That led Smith to produce the idea to empower young men and women to mow lawns and do other lawn care for the elderly, moms, disabled and veterans — for free.
That is how the not-for-profit Raising Men/Women Lawn Care Service challenge was created.
Caleb Hill is a natural for the challenge. Besides refereeing soccer games, he volunteers for his church youth group, volunteers for local charity runs and golf events and even staffs a lemonade stand with his brother, Jayden, 11, and sister, Madison, 8.
Caleb could eventually become a pilot like his grandfather or go into welding or automotive repair. Graduation is still several years away, but the responsibility of the 50 Yard Challenge has helped Caleb sharpen his organizational skills.
“We have discussed some of the life lessons he has learned,” said Trey. “There is a small percentage who potentially want to take advantage of this situation but it is a small percentage. Many people have physical ailments that prevent them from doing everyday tasks, and some people, honestly, are just friendly and want someone to talk with.”
Hill wants his son to understand that he has opportunities in life that others may not have.
“Life isn’t about material necessities, and to give back without expecting something in return is one of the greatest things anyone could every do,” Hill said.
“I’ve always had to have everything highly organized and know what my next steps are. That is just how I am,” said Caleb. “This challenge, though, has taught me that being young doesn’t mean you can’t dream big to succeed. Even more important, it is good to help others without expecting something in return.”
Learn about the 50 Yard Challenge, weareraisingmen.com.