On July 16, a Maryland father and son sea kayaking team will embark on a self-styled expedition they’ve named the Bay 200 Challenge, a 12-day kayaking journey to raise money for hunger relief, one of the most pressing COVID-19-related issues affecting people today. The father and son duo will journey on a 200-mile (320 km) north-to-south traverse of the Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. East Coast, the largest bay in the United States.
“The last 16 months had their share of ups and downs. My wife, Andrea, who is a pediatric care nurse and a recent nurse practitioner graduate, really bore the biggest share of the burden. She spent countless hours assisting critically ill children and COVID-19 patients, but that pandemic really helped our family put a lot of things in perspective,” says Hearly Mayr, father of two boys, Andreas,13, and Carsten, 11.
“We have so much to be thankful for. We have jobs, healthcare, 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," Mayr says.
The Bay 200 Challenge is supporting the Adventist Development and Relief Agency’s (ADRA) COVID-19 hunger pandemic response campaign, which aims to raise US$3 million by July 31. This support will help families who have been hit hard by the pandemic by providing access to food and other essentials. Thanks to generous donors and partners, every dollar donated is being matched and will become three dollars. To support the effort, visit www.ADRA.org/bay200challenge/give.
“Think about it: 200 miles, father and son going down the Chesapeake Bay. It’s amazing to see them taking that kind of initiative to support ADRA’s COVID-19 hunger response. The global COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and the situation is pushing families into poverty and causing an ongoing hunger crisis,” says Matthew Siliga, ADRA’s vice president of marketing and development. “Keeping people from going hungry and [providing] access to proper nutrition is part of ADRA’s ongoing global response to the COVID-19 crisis, and any donation amount, any little bit, helps our efforts, so please support Hearly and his son in the Bay 200 Challenge.”
COVID-19 severely affected food access for millions of vulnerable families in almost every country in the world, with the impact projected to continue well into 2022. According to the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises, due to pandemic-related disruptions, conflict, and climate change, hunger levels in dozens of food-insecure countries are projected to increase to a five-year high. 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.
ADRA’s COVID-19 hunger relief efforts continue to expand to meet the specific needs of communities worldwide. Projects include funding 200 food pantry expansions in the U.S. in partnership with Adventist Community Services, assisting thousands of South American families who lost jobs and income due to COVID-19, and teaching African communities to plant gardens to secure nutrition and income for families.
“It’s important to help people in need and find creative ways to do so. I’m ready to do my part and use my talents,” says Andreas Mayr, who finished seventh grade in May at Atholton Adventist Academy in Columbia, Maryland. If successful, Andreas could become one of the youngest, if not the youngest, kayaker to paddle the entire Chesapeake Bay.
The Bay 200 Challenge will launch from Elk River Park, south of Elkton, Maryland, on Friday, July 16. The trip will be divided into 12 stages and follow the eastern part of the Chesapeake Bay all the way to Smith Island, Virginia, where the bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The team will be traveling on two Canadian-made Boréal Design Sea kayaks: the Epsilon 200, measuring 17 feet (517 cm) in length with a maximum weight capacity of 295 pounds (134 kg); and the Epsilon 100, measuring 16.4 feet (500 cm) with a weight capacity of 240 pounds (109 kg). They plan to reach their destination by July 28.
“This challenge is also an amazing opportunity for my son Andreas and I [sic] to experience nature in a different way, create new memories, and see what’s physically possible for us,” adds Mayr. “You never know what new things you’ll learn from a trip like this, how it will impact your life, or how it can shape the way you see things in the future. 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.”
Mayr, who turns 50 next January, is no stranger to personal adventures and travel. He biked more than 850 miles (1,350 kms) across Alaska from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, hiked the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail, drove from Chile’s northern Atacama Desert to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, retraced the Alaskan wilderness travels of Chris McCandless, as told in the book Into the Wild, crossed Russia in winter on the Trans-Siberian railroad from Vladivostok to Moscow, and undertook other exciting adventures. He grew up in Chile, France, Madagascar, and Kenya and has traveled throughout North America, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia. He has also been to all 50 U.S. states. Both he and Andreas are avid kayakers, mountain bikers, and hikers.