By Adolphus Ames —
Maryland resident Hearly Mayr and his son, Andreas, finished a kayaking expedition they named the Bay 200 Challenge this past Saturday at Wise Point Boat Ramp near the local wildlife refuge. The challenge was a 14-day journey down the eastern portion of the Chesapeake Bay to raise money for COVID-19-related hunger relief.
The challenge began at Elk River Park south of Elkton, Md., on Friday, July 16. It was divided into 12 stages, which included stops at Ferry Point Park in Kent Narrows, Md., and on Tangier Island.
“It was a physically grueling activity,” said Hearly Mayr. “Elements such as the weather, the wind, and the tide can make things difficult. The expedition was originally supposed to take 12 days, but we suffered a weather delay on the third day and then later we got stuck on Smith Island because of the weather. We also had to deal with mosquitoes and mentally tune out the heat of the sun. But if you are driven by a strong enough purpose you can do anything.”
More so than most, the Mayrs were certainly built to endure the physical and psychological demands that accompanied the Bay 200 Challenge. Both are athletic individuals. They frequently engage in outdoor activities like cycling and hiking. In the past, Hearly has biked more than 850 miles across Alaska from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, hiked the Shenandoah National Park, drove from Chile’s northern Atacama Desert to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, and undertaken many other physically challenging ventures.
When the Mayrs arrived at the Wise Point Boat Ramp, they were welcomed and congratulated by a crowd of family and friends. Among them was Maya Kim, who came all the way from Columbia, Md., for the grand finale. Kim is the principal at Atholton Adventist Academy. She taught Andreas in kindergarten.
“The Mayr family is very mission oriented and aware of what’s going on in the world,” said Kim. “They are very supportive in the local school community and church. This is very in line with their conscientious character.”
A brief awards ceremony followed. First, the Mayrs were given an appreciation trophy from Adventist Development and Relief Agency, an international, humanitarian agency affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The Bay 200 Challenge supported ADRA’s COVID-19 hunger pandemic response campaign, which aimed to raise $3 million by July 31. So far, they have raised $9.9 million.
Next, the duo received a certificate of appreciation from Atholton Adventist Academy. Andreas also received a Pathfinder patch. Pathfinders are an adventist group similar to the Boy Scouts that serve local communities and encourage youth to become leaders. Patches are given out as a badge of honor once a member between the ages of 10 and 15 fulfills prerequisites or obtains knowledge about a skill. Andreas received one for kayaking.
When asked about the inspiration behind the challenge, Hearly reflected on his own life. “Over the last 16 months, I have felt that me and my family are very blessed because we have food on the table and stable jobs,” he said. “It’s very easy to take those things for granted. A lot of families don’t have those luxuries and the coronavirus pandemic intensified issues they were already facing.”
Mayr is familiar with the hardships faced by the less fortunate. He spent parts of his youth living in Chile, Kenya, and Madagascar. “Even though I grew up in a middle-class family, I was exposed to a lot of different realities,” he said. “I saw and encountered others suffering every day. It created in me a sense of compassion for others. I want people to understand that the less fortunate aren’t lazy or bad people. Many of them are hardworking people. Poverty is a vicious cycle that these people are caught in.”
The Mayrs have discussed doing another challenge. One possibility is a biking trip in one of the lower 48 states. “I want to show young people that it’s okay to be passionate about something and use that passion to help other people,” Hearly said. “I also want to share the sense of discovery and love of nature I inherited from my dad with my son.”