VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – This time of year, yard work can be a challenge -- it’s hot, humid and grass grows quick.
Now imagine if you’re elderly, sick or a single parent just trying to make ends meet. That maintenance may fall behind.
This week’s Getting Results Award winner heard about a program designed to help those people. It’s called the 50 Yard Challenge. Children are asked to mow 50 yards for their neighbors who are struggling to do it themselves.
Connor Grau, 11, took that challenge and learned some life lessons along the way.
Grau was watching TV one day when he saw a talk show segment featuring the Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service, a nonprofit started by Rodney Smith of Huntsville, Alabama.
Smith encourages children to mow 50 lawns, free of charge, for the elderly, disabled, single parents and veterans.
Smith said he was inspired after he saw an elderly man struggling with yard work. Smith, who has no background in lawn care, stopped to help.
After that encounter he decided to help others with their lawns, eventually starting the nationwide nonprofit.
“If you see an overgrown lawn, sometimes it’s a sign that someone is going through something,” Smith said. “It’s important to give back to those in need. Just give back. It doesn’t have to be lawn care, I’ve simply chosen a lawn mower to make a difference.”
Today, more than 2,000 children have participated in the challenge from every state.
“We’re trying to raise kids to be good citizens for their community,” Smith said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see kids wanting to get out there and make a difference in their community with a lawn mower.”
Connor completed his challenge last year.
“I asked my parents if I could do it and they said it’s going to be hard because it was in the middle of summer,” Connor remembers.
Prior to accepting the challenge, Connor had very little experience mowing lawns.
“They let me do it and I did a couple a day,” Connor said. “Most of the days were really hot and some yards were easier than others”
Connor found people throughout the county who needed help. That’s when his family realized they would be part of the challenge as well. His father would drive him to different properties and his mother would take photos to document the progress.
“We were doing lawns in our neighborhood but as more and more people heard about it and accepted the help, we were then going to Ormond Beach and New Smyrna beach and Edgewater so my husband was a huge part of that,” Danielle Grau said, adding that Connor’s younger sister, Meredith, was also cheering him on. “I feel like it was a family thing, we all got involved in this.”
Over time, some of the people Connor was mowing for passed away.
“It was almost a life lesson for him,” Grau said. “Allowing him to feel proud of himself that he was able to help somebody in the end of their life by doing something special for them. We really got so much out of this experience.”
The family said they hope others will see their story and accept the challenge as well.
“Every time I did one, I feel like the people were very happy and they were satisfied,” Connor said. “That’s one of the main reasons I did it.”