RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) — A group of dedicated young men on a symbolic journey through the grueling heat are determined to complete their bike ride of over 500 miles.
The five recovering teens, all currently living at the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Georgia, are on a mission to cycle back from Flagler, Florida from July 15-20.
Both the youth home and annual bike ride, now in its 14th year, are named after Olympic gold medalist, Georgia native and youth home founder, Paul Anderson. The legendary weightlifter was known as the “World’s Strongest Man.”
He founded the residential home as an alternative to jail for young men battling difficult situations and struggling to find a purpose in their lives.
In 1961, Anderson rode a bike from Vidalia to Omaha, Nebraska, to raise money to open the youth home. That journey inspired the Paul Anderson Youth Home Bike Ride, held in the founder’s honor. During the six-day ride, the young men are aiming to raise awareness and support for what they call “life-changing work” done at the youth home.
It’s challenging the teens one mile at a time to push through the personal struggles they’re working to overcome during their stay.
“I’m extremely honored to do this,” Camden, a youth home resident and one of the riders embarking on the journey, told News 3. He says his troubled youth led into some run-ins with the law, which eventually brought him to the youth home.
“It’s something huge, something that I never thought I would do with my life,” he added.
Before reaching Vidalia, the riders will make a couple more stops in Augusta and Statesboro before heading back to the youth home after a long journey.
“There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment to it for the young men who finish it, and our verse for the ride is Philippians 4:13, which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,'” said Director of Communications Stephen Nichols. “That’s definitely one of the things that they get out of this.”
The annual bike ride reached its $125,000 fundraising goal before this year’s ride even began. Nichols said it’s the first time in the ride’s history that they’ve achieved the remarkable feat.