This story was last updated in November 2020.
An industrious 12-year-old has completed a viral challenge and given back to people in need in one fell swoop. His benevolent deeds have even gained the recognition of the White House.
Phoenix Browne of Chesapeake, Virginia, mowed 50 lawns for free after signing up for Raising Men Lawn Care Service’s viral “50 Yard Challenge.” The challenge has been circulating on social media for months, and Phoenix knew he had the resolve to participate.
Raising Men, a charitable group, sent Phoenix a T-shirt, earplugs, and protective eyewear in July. Offering his services to people in greatest need—veterans, single parents, the elderly, and people with disabilities—the 12-year-old boy got busy.
“At first I was kind of nervous because it was such a big number,” Phoenix admitted to The Virginian-Pilot. “I didn’t think I’d get it done … But it’s really worth it.”
Phoenix had been mowing lawns for a fee in his Great Bridge neighborhood for some time, and after his family announced his entry into the challenge on social media, new requests flooded in from Chesapeake and beyond.
With help from his parents, Sheldon Browne and Joycelene Tetteh, he traveled as far as Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach to cut lawns. Despite the occasional messy yard or lawn mower breakdown, Phoenix decided that the sense of satisfaction made his efforts worthwhile.
So did praise from satisfied customers.
One client, 70-year-old Patty Taylor of Virginia Beach, even had Phoenix and his parents over for dinner. She now pays Phoenix to maintain her lawn, calling him a “stand-up young man.”
“I’m very fortunate he came my way,” Taylor said, adding that she’s seen a huge transformation in her young helper. “He’s very respectful of his father but he is the boss, and it shows. I’m real proud of him,” she said.
Phoenix’s mother agreed. “It’s very important he works on the ability to interact with others,” she said of her son, who has been homeschooled since the 7th grade. “It helps with his communication, his ability to problem solve.”
Phoenix completed the 50 Yard Challenge in August, and the Raising Men crew rewarded him for his achievement with a brand-new lawnmower. But the young upstart wasn’t finished yet.
He collated all of the tips he’d received from mowing lawns for free, bought a stack of pizzas and water, and set up pop-up food stands for homeless people and others in need around the city.
Sheldon told The Epoch Times that both the challenge and the feedback “encourages Phoenix, and makes him proud and eager to do more within the community.”
After Phoenix became known to the Chesapeake community for his kind deeds, Mayor Rick West awarded him a certificate of commendation mid-October. Phoenix literally jumped out of his chair when he heard the news.
Then came the big one.
On Oct. 31, Phoenix received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, sent from the White House after a man in Washington submitted his nomination. It was a complete surprise.
Sheldon posted a video on Facebook of Phoenix opening the envelope to reveal an impressive medal, pin, and signed certificate.
Now, Phoenix plans to participate in the challenge in summer 2021, for free of course, and continue sharing his message to pay it forward.
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