Four young men from Paul Anderson Youth Home, along with guest riders and a support team, rode into Statesboro Friday, ending their next-to-last leg of a 500-mile bike ride through parts of Florida and Georgia. 2019 marked the 14th annual ride for the home that is located in Vidalia.
The Paul Anderson Youth Home is a Christ-centered, fully-licensed and accredited home for young men ages 16 to 21 who have chemical dependency issues that require detoxification. Every program is different and is formulated according to the needs of the individual, but most boys spend between 15 and 18 months in the program.
“We don’t have a cookie-cutter program,” said Bill Shepherd, the youth home’s director of Advancement Department. “We’ve found that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to addictions. We keep in mind each individual’s needs – personal needs, counseling needs, education. We help transform the lives of troubled young men.”
“The home is a second-chance for the boys,” concurred Mac Jordan, longtime friend and supporter of the Paul Anderson Home and the man behind the idea for the annual ride. “The ride gives the boys a chance to accomplish something, something to be proud of. We see a lot grow up and mature during the ride.”
The ride commemorates a ride that founder Paul Anderson first made in 1961 from Vidalia to Omaha, Neb., to promote the opening of his home for boys. Well-known as an Olympic gold medalist and world champion weightlifter, Anderson often wowed audiences with his feats of strength.
The youth home named for Anderson continues his legacy by using physical challenges to instill self-confidence and Christian character into the boys’ everyday lives. The bike ride gives the boys the satisfaction of setting a difficult goal and reaching it. This challenge affords a unique opportunity for them to grow physically and spiritually and to build the confidence needed to successfully master other challenges in life.
Eighteen-year-old rider, Caden, from Auburn, Ala., said he was exhausted when he arrived in Statesboro. The boys have traveled in brutal heat since starting in Flagler Beach, Fla. on Monday, with stops for the night in St. Simons Island, Pooler, Augusta and Statesboro. The last leg takes the boys back to the home in Vidalia.
While in Statesboro, the boys had the opportunity to shower and clean up at Georgia Southern’s Recreation Activity Center facilities and then sleep overnight at First Baptist Church.
Caden said that the ride was difficult and when he encountered thoughts of giving up, he prayed, asking God to help him get through the ride.
“And we have great staff that helps motivate and encourage us,” Caden said.
The ride had a huge impact on Caden, and he said it was difficult to explain just how powerful the ride was in relation to his recovery.
“I realized through these last five days that I can do more than I thought I could. It’s something that I can carry with me the rest of my life, and I figured if I can do this, than I can do anything I set my mind to with the help of Jesus.”
Guest rider Fritz Olnhausen, an avid bike rider, rode along with the boys. Olnhausen is an alumni parent and serves on the youth home’s board.
“I ride because it inspires me,” Olnhausen said. “When these guys see what they can do, it inspires me.”