By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
CLEARWATER – On Oct. 14, 2021, Clearwater High School senior Austin Layton donned his white Raising Men Lawn Care Services T-shirt and accepted the 50 Yard Challenge.
Layton has mowed 19 yards since October, completely free of charge, in order to help the elderly, disabled, veterans and single parents who need help managing their lawn care. He will also rake leaves and shovel snow from driveways.
Layton has a goal of finishing 30 lawns by the end of January and completing the program by the end of March.
“I decided to participate in the 50 Yard Challenge because I know my actions will take me a long way in life,” said Layton. “The more I grow up the more I realize I can do something to better someone else’s life, whether that’s mowing someone’s yard or doing something so small like a smile. I always knew I would be the giving kind.”
Layton is just 17 but he is already a busy person. Not only has he taken on the 50 Yard Challenge, he is the president of the high school Kay Club, a member of the C-Club and the SAFE/SADD club. He also plays football and baseball.
Layton plans to further his education after high school by getting a degree in turfgrass management. Prior to accepting the challenge through RMLCS, Layton has his own lawn care and landscape business. He has suspended his paid services until he completes the challenge and hopes to continue building his business after he is done. He plans to use his degree to further build his clientele list.
RMLCS is a non-profit organization founded by Rodney Smith Jr. in 2015. In conjunction with RMLCS, Smith also created a sister program for young ladies to participate called Raising Women Lawn Care Services. The idea began when Smith was walking home from school and observed an elderly neighbor struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped to help the man by finishing up his lawn.
“After giving it some thought later that night he made the decision to give back and mow for the elderly, disabled, single parents, and veterans yards completely free of charge so they didn’t have to,” said Layton. “After setting a goal of 40 free lawns by the end of winter 2015, he reached that goal so quickly he then pushed himself to 100 yards. After he reached 100 yards, he founded Raising Men and Women’s Lawn Care so other kids ages 7-17 could join along in helping their communities out with him across the nation.”
Kids begin with a white T-shirt and earn another colored shirt for every 10 yards they mow. An orange shirt is received after 10 complete lawns. After 20 yards, kids get a green shirt. Thirty yards earns the participant a blue shirt, and after 40 yards they receive a red shirt. When the challenge is complete and 50 yards have been cared for free of charge, Smith delivers the final black T-shirt himself. Along with the T-shirt, Smith gives away a new lawn mower, weed eater, and leaf blower.
The popularity of the program has spread nationwide and over-seas since its founding in 2015. The 50 Yard Challenge is now in all 50 states and in eight countries with more than 3,200 children participating.
Those interested in participating in the 50 Yard Challenge can find Rodney Smith Jr. on any social media platform or go to weareraisingmen.com.