Connor Grau, 10, of Port Orange has been taking part in The 50-Yard Challenge.
He learned about the program when the creator of it, Rodney Smith Jr., was on the Kelly Clarkson show.
Connor has mowed 50 lawns in the community for free to help people who can’t do it themselves.
Mr. Smith is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service. The challenge for children worldwide is to cut 50 lawns free for the elderly, disabled, single parents, veterans or anyone in need of help in their town.
“If you accept this challenge, all you need to do is send us a photo of you holding a sign saying 'I accept the 50 Yard Challenge' and, in return, we’ll send you your white Raising Men/Women shirt along with shades and ear protection to get you started,” the challenge's website states. “For every 10 lawns cut, you will get a new color shirt. Once you cut 10 lawns you get an orange shirt, 20 lawns earn a green shirt, 30 lawns earn a blue shirt, 40 lawns earn a red shirt and 50 lawns earn a black shirt.
“Once you reach 50 lawns, we will come visit you, cut a few lawns with you, and give you different color Raising Men Lawn Care Service shirts,” the website states. “We will also give you a brand-new lawn mower, weed eater and blower. Let’s make a difference together by mowing one yard at a time. The challenge is for boys & girls. Ages 7-17.”
Connor, who attends Samsula Academy, often completed multiple lawns in one day, usually on Saturdays.
“I wanted to help out my community,” he said. “Mowing lawns is very tough because I know it’s really hot in Florida. I wanted to help people by doing this. I feel proud of myself. It was very hard. Now we’re going to mow (for the neighbors) for the rest of the year.”
He hopes he has inspired other children to do similar acts of kindness.
“Whenever I am done with the lawns, I see that big smile on their face and that just makes my heart get bigger and bigger from seeing smile after smile,” Connor said. “I am glad I helped all those people I did.”
Neighbors Cathie and Mike Richards will continue to reap the benefits of Connor’s generosity as he wants to continue doing their lawn even though he completed the challenge.
“He’s only 10. For being 10 he is just so mature,” Ms. Richards said. “He does such a good job, he’s so polite. He’s just a great little guy. It’s quite impressive.”
Danielle Grau said her son saw Mr. Smith talking about the challenge during quarantine while he was watching the Kelly Clarkson Show. “You receive different colors of shirts as you complete lawns in increments of 10, similar to 'a karate belt system,'” she said.
“We haven’t met him yet as he goes all over the United States. He’s actually on a tour right now mowing for veterans at different bases,” Ms. Grau said. “When he finishes the tour, he will be coming to pay Connor a visit.”
She added in one case Connor was mowing a lawn for someone who unbeknownst to them was terminally ill and has since died. He started July 4 and completed his 50th lawn for his grandparents Sept. 12. Friends and family socially distanced and helped him celebrate.
Ms. Grau said the experience “has really been an amazing thing. We’ve mowed for different people all the way from Daytona Beach to Edgewater. It was (also) a neat way for us to connect with our neighbors. He wasn’t doing it for the recognition. He did it because he thought it would be a neat thing to do. It was completely Connor’s idea.”
Connor's motivation and ability to connect with people helped.
“I always knew that he was a responsible and determined young man, but he so joyfully surprised us in more ways than we thought possible,” his mother said. “He blessed my heart.”
She added they were surprised at how many people reached out to them, offering money for gas, for example.
Ms. Grau is a drama teacher for Center Stage Dance and Performing Arts in New Smyrna Beach and his father, Jason Grau, is a building contractor who owns Grau Coastal Construction. Besides his parents, Connor lives with his younger sister Meredith who is equally proud of him. Connor and Meredith make bracelets for friends and family as goodwill gifts to spread cheer, which they started during the pandemic. Connor likes football and enjoys math in school.
A lawn may be done more than once. In the fall & winter the challenge switches to raking leaves and snow shoveling.
For more information, visit weareraisingmen.com.