Ten years. That’s a long time. One year longer than Seinfeld.
When Mac approached Drew over ten years ago to suggest a bike ride to raise awareness for the PAYH, it was at least a crazy idea. Turns out, it was also a brilliant idea. Think about it. We have raised an incredible amount of money for the PAYH. In fact, the ride has become our number one event as far as fundraising goes. (Everyone knows the Christmas Play is actually the better event, but no need to mention that now. No. Now is the time for the bike ride to shine. The Christmas Play, as amazing and awe inspiring as it is, will have its time later.) It has given us presence in 11 states in a way that we could never do before, not since Paul traveled in the name of the PAYH in the 60’s and 70’s. But in truth, that is not the greatest achievement of the ride.
This year, we had four alumni for the entire ride: Nick, Joseph, Ben and Reese. Throughout the ride, we had other alumni show up from time to time. Mack rode for a day and spent the night with us. Jesse came along for a day or so. Daniel had supper with us and breakfast the next morning. But think about this for a moment… we had five young men currently in the program who rode this year, and four alumni who came back for the entire trip. This was Nick and Joseph’s third ride. For Ben and Reese, it was their second.
We almost had as many alumni ride this year as current boys. Plus, Fritz and Daniel, alumni parents also rode for their second and third bike rides respectively. We had Cris and Fran with us as support all the way from Key West to Vidalia.
What is the point? You don’t come back to spend eight days on a bike or in a sag vehicle in the heat of July across Florida and Georgia if it isn’t important to you. And it isn’t just the bike ride. It’s family.
Listen, it is hard to be a boy at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. It just is, for so many reasons. And after you graduate and you look back, without fail every graduate misses the home. That is simply a fact. But most cannot give back their time and resources the way they might like. It is a simply truth about life that being a college student trying to find your way into adulthood is all-consuming.
And yet, here we are with four alumni returning to ride. And let’s not forget that Jake and Cody rode four bike rides total before life caught them up.
I love watching the boys in the program complete this thing that is such a monumental challenge. Cody, Graham, Tyler, Bradley, and Chris rode with heart. They gave their all. They finished well. They have become part of a legacy of 45 PAYH alumni who are also PAYH Bike Ride alumni. Seeing even four of those 45 come back and ride again isn’t just awesome to witness. It changes something. It changes the game.
The simple reality of boys and their fathers coming back year after year to ride changes this event from a fundraiser and awareness event and transforms it into a testimony. Into a witness for the change that is possible. It stands as evidence that not only is change possible and that it does start with one, but also that change ripples into forever. It echoes into the lives of our boys’ children. And their children.
So a huge thank you to Fritz and Daniel for being fathers who make the time to come back with their son and ride this ride. Thanks to Cris and Fran for supporting their son two years in a row. A sag vehicle is not easier than a bike. It does have air conditioning, though. Thank God for that. And thanks to all the parents of our current young men who showed up along the route to support their boy. From Key West to Vidalia, every boy had family at some point along the way standing on the side of the road cheering them on.
Thanks to Chris, Bradley, Graham, Tyler and Cody for riding and for finishing the race.
And thanks to Joseph, Ben, Nick and Reese for reminding us that what we do is valuable, not only because of the change we see today but also because of the change we will see tomorrow.
Thanks to Jeff and Judy who have supported the ride for the past eight years, ever since their son Nate rode. We missed you this year, Judy!
Dennis, we were so glad you could join us again this year, if only for the second half of the ride. We feel so very much safer knowing you are bringing up the rear.
Victoria: you probably have the least glamorous job of all of us. Yet without you, our riders (sometimes that includes the ones in the van) would be lost and out of water. And we’d start every day with dirty clothes. You are awesome. We love you. Thanks you so much!
Sam: No one man-handles a trailer like you. No one locks down a trailer as though it were Fort Knox like you, either. We love what you do for us, your simple way of just doing what you do without getting stressed or frazzled. You are the glue, yes. You are also a calming agent. And you make a mean cup of coffee. Thank you, Sam. You are a pleasure.
Then there is the team back on campus who preps for the ride long before anyone is thinking about biking. Except perhaps Drew. The Advancement Team is planning the 2016 PAYH Bike Ride as we speak. Michelyn, Melissa, Debbie, Matthew, Emma and the rest of us who actually get to go on the ride and see first hand the fruit of that labor of love. Thanks to all of you, the unsung heroes.
And the PAYH staff who allow this event to disrupt so much of the program because of how much it is a part of the program. For Deborah for pushing us to get the word out there by hanging greens bows around Vidalia.
And to Drew: Oh Captain, my Captain… you are the one who gave Mac’s idea a try. Now look what you did. Ten years later… I guess you do have good ideas sometimes. (Like doing the Christmas Play as a fundraiser.)
But our heartiest thank you this year goes to Mac. Mac, we know you like to hide in the shadows. You want to avoid the camera, and I pretty much make that impossible for you, and you endure it. But the truth is, you cannot hide in a shadow because your light is too bright. This ride is your light. It has been shining ten years bright. May it shine brighter for many years to come. Words fail to express it adequately, so please allow our thanks to be expressed by the ride itself. Because we know, that is the gratitude you want: for the ride to be the ride.