The kayakers used vacation time to bond and help the pandemic hunger relief campaign.

After facing rough tides, mosquitoes, and extreme heat, Hearly Mayr, father, and his son, Andreas, finally reached the last stop of their 200-mile (320 km) kayaking journey down the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, United States, on July 30, 2021.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and is a world heritage site that spans more than 4,400 square miles (11,600 square kilometers).

The duo started their adventure on July 16 at Elk River in Elkton, Maryland. Family, friends, representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Atholton Adventist Academy, the New Hope Adventist church, the North American Division, and the local community met with them to share well wishes, pray, and cheer them off.

Andreas and Hearly Mayr kayak to the last stop of their Bay 200 Challenge. [Photo: Pedro Zavarce]

As they kayaked down the bay, the Mayrs made a few stops to rest. At one point, their trip was delayed by a rainstorm, and they decided to take a day to wait out the conditions. The pair aimed to make the trip in 12 days but completed the journey in 15 days. Hearly also updated his followers on Instagram and Facebook on an almost daily basis, encouraging people to donate to ADRA’s cause.

Making a Difference by Doing

“We have so much to be thankful for,” Mayr said. “We have jobs, health care, access to school, a home, food, and so many other things. Sadly, many people here in the U.S. and around the world can’t say the same. As we counted our blessings, we knew that we had to do something to help others. That’s why we decided to use our summer vacation to launch the Bay 200 Challenge to let our community know that even though the pandemic is easing in the U.S., people here at home and in other countries are still facing very serious COVID-19-related challenges each day, especially hunger.”

Thanks to the Mayrs, Bay 200 Challenge supporters, and supporters for ADRA’s pandemic hunger relief campaign, ADRA surpassed its fundraising goal with a total of US$9.9 million on July 31. Proceeds will help families worldwide gain access to food and other essentials, as they have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporters drove miles to welcome the kayakers back on the eastern shore of Virginia. [Photo: Pedro Zavarce]

“We congratulate Hearly and Andreas on this huge achievement,” Matthew Siliga, ADRA’s vice president of marketing and development, said. “There are so many ways they could have spent their summer, but they chose to raise awareness and funds for communities that, on a daily basis, travel huge distances to access water, education, and health care. ADRA thanks Hearly and Andreas for their support, but most importantly, their commitment to alleviating poverty,”

“What Andreas, a Pathfinder from the New Hope Nighthawk Pathfinder Club, has done in the last few weeks has been remarkable,” Armando Miranda Jr., North American Division associate director for youth and young adult ministries, said. “His resilience and growing desire to make a difference is an example to many.

“Pathfinders are proud of Andreas for the difference and the impact that he and his father, Hearly, were able to make through this challenge,” Miranda added. “We hope that many more Pathfinders realize that they, too, can be influencers and agents of change and that they don’t have to kayak or do something big, but they can do similar things in their communities to bring awareness to important issues.”

The Mayrs reach their final stop and embrace each other on a job well done. [Photo: Pedro Zavarce]

Paddling to the End

Supporters of the father and son drove several hours to the eastern shore in Virginia to celebrate the family’s achievement in person at their last stop. In attendance were the principal, students, and staff from Atholton Adventist Academy, the Mayrs’ pastor and members from the New Hope Adventist church, ADRA staff members, and a representative from the Cornerstone Seventh-day Adventist Church, the congregation in that area of Virginia.

“Andreas’ classmates, school, and teachers are proud of him for paddling this impressive mileage of the Chesapeake Bay under some grueling conditions,” Miya Kim, principal of Atholton Adventist Academy, said. “What a wonderful way to help educate others around the world due to the devastating effect of COVID-19. Young people will be inspired by Andreas’ grit, determination, and will use his experience as a way to make a huge difference in the lives of others.”

“We prayed for them through the journey and are happy they’ve returned unharmed,” Marilyn Scott, family pastor of the New Hope church, said. “We couldn’t be prouder. With incredible endurance and resolve, Hearly and Andreas demonstrated what it means to be a New Hope member — living the kingdom of God wherever you are — empathizing, guarding, and loving their neighbors.”

The kayak duo received several awards and were recognized for their outstanding achievement. [Photo: Pedro Zavarce]

ADRA awarded the pair with a blue crystal star trophy as a public expression of appreciation for their creative way of bringing awareness to pandemic hunger relief and accomplishing the feat despite obstacles.

Radio station WGTS 91.9 also recognized the father and son with a “Hometown Heroes” award during an on-air appearance for “going above and beyond to make a difference.”

Additionally, Andreas was honored with a kayak patch by Scott on behalf of the church’s Pathfinder club for fulfilling and satisfying recreational requirements for kayaking. Pathfinder honors, which total 693, are awarded to young people, ages 10 to 15, who demonstrate knowledge and skills to build a young person’s personal growth, spiritual discovery, service to others, health and fitness, outdoor living, and study of nature.

Andreas was also awarded a certificate of appreciation by Atholton Adventist Academy, along with an undisclosed monetary gift.

 

True Overcomers

As the Mayrs pulled up to the shore met by the small group of supporters, it was Andreas who finished first, despite the look of tiredness on his face. Father and son embraced each other before sharing a few words of thanks.

“We learned so much about the bay, met wonderful and kind people, and felt so motivated every day from our social media followers to just keep going and to finish what we started,” Hearly said. “I encourage more families to find creative ways to spend time with their children and give back to their community. It is an investment worth making.”

Hearly added that though their challenge has been completed, the pandemic remains an ongoing struggle and that the world’s most vulnerable are being hit the hardest.

At least 155 million people in 55 countries were already acutely food insecure in 2020 and in need of urgent assistance, and those numbers could continue to climb, disproportionately affecting women and girls and low- and middle-income communities. Additionally, because of pandemic-related disruptions, conflict, and climate change, hunger levels in dozens of food-insecure countries are projected to increase to a five-year high in 2021, according to the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises.

The Mayrs plan to take a few days to relax and spend time with the rest of their family.

The original version of this story was posted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

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