From Thursday through Aug. 7, eight teenagers — along with staff and volunteers from the Paul Anderson Youth Home — will participate in a 600-mile bike ride through southeast Georgia and Florida.
Finishing the cycling challenge is just one of their goals for the summer.
The riders hope to make parents more aware of the struggles youth face every day through a campaign called “familySTRONG,” a proactive parenting movement that challenges parents to “make ‘parent’ a verb.” The group is also riding with the goal of raising $100,000 to support the ongoing rehabilitative work at the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the bike ride is seeing our young men accomplish something they never thought possible,” said Drew Read, the chief operating officer of the home. “Having ridden over 4,500 miles in the last seven years with 36 young men, I have seen the bike ride help many young men turn a corner and begin to realize what they are truly capable of accomplishing.”
The ride will hit the road on Thursday in Lakeland, Fla. The ride honors what Paul Anderson, the “world’s strongest man” and the organization’s founder, began in 1961. This year, the event also pays tribute to George Jenkins, the founder of Publix Super Markets Inc. and long-time partner of the Paul Anderson Youth Home from its early years. Through the investment of “Mr. George” and Publix Super Market Charities, thousands of families have been touched.
Jacob Sherrill, an alumnus and volunteer rider, sums up the Paul Anderson Cycling Challenge like this: “I would use one word out of the many possibilities to describe the ride, ‘transformation.’ The transformation that took place in my life three years ago on this ride was amazing, and now I get to see it happen to others. That is why I continue to ride each year.”
Since 1961, the Paul Anderson Youth home has provided an alternative to incarceration and a home to more than 1,200 young men while nurturing and encouraging their families. The home continues to shape young men of character and launch them back into society with 90 percent of its graduates never seeing the inside of a jail cell again. As part of the rehabilitation process, the home offers opportunities for young men to participate in events such as the Cycling Challenge. This 600-mile awareness and fundraising bike ride throughout the Southeast teaches perseverance, discipline, teamwork and endurance.
Inspiring youth to tackle significant challenges is just one aspect of the rehabilitative work done by the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Through its research, the staff is able to identify the dangerous trends on the horizon that will affect tomorrow’s children and youth. More than 36,000 youths are arrested every week in the U.S. and some children starting to use drugs as early as elementary school, yet many parents believe their families are exempt from these dangerous trends. The home offers resources and information to help parents spot warning signs, develop authentic relationships with their children and provides help when the need arises.
Locals can meet the young men biking by visiting www.payhbikeride.com or by attending one of the tour stops along the route. To sponsor a rider on the 600-mile cycling challenge, go online. While online, visitors may also register for a chance to win a Motobecane road bike. Entries will be received until Aug. 15.
Blogs, video and audio coverage can be found at www.payhbikeride.com. For more information on the Paul Anderson Youth Home or familyStrong resources, visit www.payh.org.
Corporate sponsors for this year’s ride include: Dewberry Foundation, Eagle Painting, Georgia Pediatrics, Handy Andy, LOGIX3, Mac Jordan, New York Life Agents (Kevin O’Dell, Charlton Rogers and Tim Waters), Onions Etc., Shuman Produce, Sikes Farms, Tom Everett Attorney at Law, VNS Corporation, World Tracking Solutions, and Zorn & Son Insurance.