TULSA, Okla. — Flecked with bits of bright green grass, 17-year-old Tyler Unique McClain took a break from mowing late Tuesday morning to sip a cup of ice water in the shade in an east Tulsa neighborhood.
It had been a whirlwind weekend for the soon-to-be high school senior. On Friday, she was driving with a friend when her younger brother called to say someone had stolen her lawn mower, trimmer and leaf blower from her family’s driveway.
“I was just shocked,” McClain said. “I’ve had it out there for three or four weeks now, and no one has come over or bothered the stuff.”
The theft initially left her scrambling. McClain mows at least a dozen yards a week, sometimes many more than that, and didn’t want her customers’ lawns to grow shaggy. With the money she earns, she helps support herself and her mom, Talisha McClain, who has undergone multiple surgeries this year related to breast cancer.
“This year has been really hard on me and my family,” Talisha McClain said. “She’s been very supportive helping me through what I’ve been going through.”
People have begun to help the teenager get back to business. Someone donated a push mower, edger and leaf blower so that McClain could keep her weekend schedule.
On Saturday, she created a GoFundMe to help her eventually get a riding lawn mower to expand her clientele and a truck to carry her equipment. By Wednesday morning the campaign had raised $7,000 of a $10,000 goal.
McClain has mowed lawns since she was 12. Back then, she lugged around a wagon her uncle made to transport her equipment. Even as she worked odd fast food jobs through her teenage years, she would get off work and gas up the mower.
“Anything that’s offered to me in this life, I want to take advantage of that,” she said. “And that’s what I did at age 12, which got me here today.”
Five years later, McClain now has a cupcake business in addition to her work in lawn care. Unique Sweet Kustom Treats offers flavors and toppings that include Hot Cheetos, pretzel M&M’S and maple bacon.
McClain has no shortage of plans for her future. After she graduates next May, she plans to attend Tulsa Community College. Eventually, she wants to be an orthodontist, go to culinary school to hone her baking and maybe formally learn to cut hair.
“There’s more that I can do,” she said. “I’ve always had that stuck in my head: ‘There’s more that I can do.’ ”
That line of thinking has motivated McClain to speak to young people in her neighborhood about the future. She described some east Tulsa neighborhoods as low income, where young people are more often exposed to violence and crime.
“I want to show the younger youth that there is a better way to make money,” she said.
She’s also using that “more-I-can-do” attitude in the wake of the theft. McClain, friends and family have been using social media to try to get her noticed by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
In the meantime, she’ll do what she has always done: Pull the starter cord on her mower and get to work.