A 14-year-old boy started a lawn care business — not to pay for a bike or a new gadget — but to cover legal fees for his stepfather to adopt him and his big brother.
Tyce Pender of Cayce, S.C. has no memory of life without Eric Jenkins, who started dating his mother Marcy in 2010 and proposed to her four years later.
"He's been a father figure to me since I was 2," Tyce told TODAY Parents. "He's always been there for us and helps me with anything I need like homework."
Two years after Eric and Marcy wed, they discussed the possibility of Eric adopting Tyce and his brother Tylee, 15, and they recently hired a lawyer who will work pro bono.
Despite the good fortune of finding a lawyer to work on the case, other estimated legal costs will run the family several thousand dollars.
But the brothers and their 14-year-old stepsister Tierrianna want their mom and dad to legalize an adoption.
"This is important because Eric teaches me respect, independence and what a man is supposed to be," explained Tyce. "If anything ever happens to my mom, Eric is who I'd want to live with."
So he wanted to contribute. "Court is expensive," said Tyce. "I thought I could make enough money to pay for the adoption."
Tyce remembered that his brother Jayden, 21, had mowed lawns as a kid to make money in the summer.
But Tyce had only used a lawn mower once in his life, to cut his grandmother's grass. "But I've watched other people do it," he said.
Eric Jenkins, 36, a machinist, was touched. "Caring for Tyce is my job," he told TODAY Parents. "His heart is in the right place."
Tyce's mom agreed. "It's a powerful thing that Tyce wants to give this recognition (to his stepfather)," she told TODAY Parents.
Last month, Marcy purchased him a $192 battery-powered lawnmower. Then, the teen went to Facebook to advertise his business: Tyce & Company Lawn Service.
"Hi my name is Tyce. I am 14 years old and today my mom gave me a business loan and I was able to purchase a rechargeable lawn mower," he wrote in a post. "I do have safety glasses and gloves and I am hoping to find some yards to cut and maybe even maintain them. I go to school during the week and I am available some afternoons and all day on Saturday and Sundays."
He added, "I also have an electric leaf blower and a rake, too. I am wanting to make this into a business so I can have my own business."
Tyce's first customer was a woman named Sarah Larrabee in West Columbia.
Marcy dropped Tyce off at Larrabee's home and waited outside in the car for him to finish.
"At first, I was pretty intimated," admitted Tyce. "But her yard wasn't that big."
One hour later, Tyce had his first satisfied customer.
"It went so well, he was such a sweet kid, so polite and like, just so happy to be there and excited to have his first job, and it was just so sweet," Larrabee told local news station WLTX, which first reported on Tyce's project.
The teen has cut about 16 yards. Tyce doesn't have an official price list, preferring to negotiate with customers on a fair fee. Working after school and on weekends has earned him $400.
Eric said that he and Marcy will cover the majority of costs associated with an adoption.
"I'm extremely proud of Tyce," he said. "He's a good kid."