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Mowing cross-country lawns for a cause

Rodney Smith Jr. stopped in Green River as part of his 50-state lawn mowing tour.  Star photo by Hannah Romero.


By Hannah Romero
Green River Star

Via- Wyoming News Exchange

Most Green River residents probably didn’t notice the black and yellow van that pulled onto Stephens Street, the young man who climbed out of it with a colorful lawnmower, or the woman wearing an ECAN shirt he spoke to. However, the eyes of thousands of people on the internet turned to Green River as Rodney Smith Jr. made his stop there as part of his journey to mow lawns in all 50 states.

Smith is the founder of Raising Men and Women Lawn Care, an organization that mows lawns for free for the elderly, disabled, single parents and veterans. Smith not only mows lawns and encourages kids to do so, but he travels the country to raise awareness for a number of important causes.

The organization started in 2015, when Smith was still a student.

“I saw an elderly man struggling with his lawn, so I pulled over and helped him out, and that night I just decided I’d start mowing free lawns,” Smith explained, adding that “one thing led to another” and the nonprofit organization grew from there.

Smith named the organization “Raising Men Lawn Care,” eventually adding “Women” to the title as well, because one of the goals is to encourage kids to get involved by mowing lawns in their own communities. Smith asks kids to take up the “50 Yard Challenge,” which involves mowing 50 lawns in their community for free. For every 10 lawns they finish, they will get a different color t-shirt, working their way up. Once they finish all 50 lawns, Smith will personally drive to where they are to give them a new mower and weed eater so they can continue their work. They can also take up more specific challenges to focus on different groups, like the Military Challenge, which involves mowing the lawns of 50 veterans. Kids can also do leaf raking and snow shoveling in addition to mowing.

“It just keeps them active and wanting to help out,” Smith said, adding that it teaches them kindness as well.

Two years after founding the organization, Smith decided to expand his reach even more, making a plan to visit all 50 states to make people aware of the organization and encourage others to get involved.

“Eventually I started mowing for different causes,” Smith said, explaining that he continued to visit all 50 states, highlighting different needs each time, from breast cancer awareness to supporting veterans to helping various organizations.

Making his way to Nola Cutts’ house in Green River was one of Smith’s stop in his current cross-country mowing tour, which is the 18th time he’s traveled to every state.

“For this 18th 50-state mowing tour, I’m mowing for a whole bunch of different causes at once,” Smith explained. “And I have a customized lawn mower that I use during this time, and at the end of it I will auction it off and give the funds to a nonprofit organization.”

When deciding where to stop on his current tour, Smith reached out to his over 150,000 social media followers, asking them to submit the causes that are important to them. He then chose one for each state, going to that person’s home to mow their lawn and highlight their cause.

Smith reached Wyoming on just the fifth day of his tour, but it was already the 14th state he’d stopped in. He drove into town and unloaded his lawn mower at the home of Nola Cutts, a Green River resident who has followed him on social media for a while.

“I thought he did really good work,” Cutts said of Smith and his past tours to raise awareness. “When it popped up that he was supporting charities, I’m not gonna say no to that.”

Cutts took her opportunity to highlight an organization close to her heart – the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN).

“I think ECAN deserves all the attention that they can get because what they do is important to me. Really important to me,” she said.

Cutts explained that her husband died from esophageal cancer when he was 53, and by the time they found out what was wrong it was too late to do anything. She feels that if she had known then what she knows now, things might have turned out differently. So now she shares as much information as she can with others. She has heard from friends who have had a loved one checked and been able to catch things early, and she now knows survivors. Cutts wants everyone to know that heartburn can cause cancer, and to be aware and informed of the warning signs so it can be caught early.

While she takes every chance she can to share information, she didn’t imagine she would have the opportunity to share through Smith’s significant platform, so she was excited and grateful he decided to stop in Green River. Smith not only took a selfie with Cutts and her son Paul, as he does with all those whose lawns he mows, but he took a video giving them the opportunity to share more about ECAN and why it’s important. The timing also worked out perfectly, as April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month.

While Cutts was grateful to have the chance to share, Smith is also appreciative of being able to bring attention to important topics.

“All the causes are special,” he said. “Everyone supports them for a reason.”

Smith couldn’t stay in Green River for long, and was already headed to Idaho by the end of the day. Since then, he has already made it to the east coast, and is quickly going through states, mowing lawns, and bringing attention to even more causes.

One of Smith’s many social media followers is Matthew Rackley, another Green River resident who stopped by while Smith was in town to shake his hand and buy two copies of his new children’s book, which tells the story of how he got started mowing lawns.

“I just think what he does is awesome,” Rackley said. “We need more of this.”

Cutts agreed, thankful not only that Smith chose to stop at her house, but for his work to raise awareness in general.

“He’s an amazing person,” she said.


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