With each rotation of their bike pedals, five teenagers from across the southern United States last week trekked through Ponte Vedra Beach as part of the 12th annual Paul Anderson Bike Ride, travelling further away from their troubled pasts and pushing toward a life based on family and faith.
The bike ride is a week-long, 500-mile expedition through Georgia and Florida that honors the legacy of Olympic legend and “World’s Strongest Man” Paul Anderson. In 1961, Anderson founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home to give young men an opportunity to avoid prison and find their God-given purpose in life. With each of the bikers being current residents, alumni or supporters of the youth home, the ride is ultimately symbolic of the growth and perseverance that residents of the facility experience.
“It is so impressive to see these young men grow through hard work and determination to accomplish this feat together as a family,” said Shane Smith, director of advancement at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. “We are seeing how they are fostering their relationships with Christ and completing a ride this tough gives them another triumph for their testimonies.”
In preparation for the bike ride, which included a stop in Ponte Vedra Beach July 20, one of the participants named Austin had a barrier to overcome. Prior to training for this journey, he had never before ridden a bike
“I only fell one time,” said Austin. “But I got back up and kept on riding. That is kind of what all of us are doing. We just keep going forward no matter what happened before.
(Note: The Paul Anderson Youth Home withholds releasing the riders’ last names due to privacy laws regarding teenagers.)
“My life was not where I wanted it to be,” continued Austin. “I started trying drugs when I was 13. The Paul Anderson Youth Home family has helped me turn my life around.”
Each of the participants rode for sponsors who are helping raise money to operate the youth home year-round. The bike ride is one of three fundraisers organized to support the nonprofit Christian organization.
Ride organizers documented the journey with blogs and videos daily at payhbikeride.com. Along the way, the riders are hoping their stories can help inspire others that saw them on the roadways and in cities throughout the journey.
“We all have things in our past, but we have overcome them,” said Hunter A. “Throughout the ride, I noticed on the bike that I was much more focused on the road in front of me instead of the one behind me. That is what we have to do in life: look ahead.”