Updated: Apr 21
By: Justin Hanneken
Ten years ago, Aaron Arnold challenged my overweight self to get on a bicycle and ride from Fort Myers to Key West. Arnold, founder of YouthHOPE, didn't want me to do it alone. A decade later, we’ve gotten fitter and had hundreds of people join us on bicycles along the way.
The 10th Annual Key West Bike Ride (KWBR) took place March 20-24, 2021 with stops in Everglades City, Homestead, Islamorada and Marathon before arriving in Key West.
It marks a 300-mile milestone of perseverance and dedication. Over the years, we’ve had 710 cyclists from more than three dozen states and four countries participate in our rides, with 60 participants that joined us on the 2021 KWBR.
Each ride benefits different youth ministries around the world.
In February 2012, 10 guys and two gals got on their bicycles and pedaled 300 miles in five days. We slept in churches at night, sang praise and worship songs and heard sermons. During our ride, we prayed for youth in Velingrad, Bulgaria - a ministry called True Horizons, which was started by Gabe & Melissa Hillman (formerly of Fort Myers).
The first Key West Bike Ride happened in February 2012 - these 10 men and 2 ladies pedaled 300 miles together in 5 days for the youth of Bulgaria.
I wouldn’t have called myself a ‘cyclist’ at that point. I was extremely overweight, and I had almost no knowledge of cycling. But two brothers, Robert Lowry & Paul Norton of Cape Coral, took me under their wings and taught me everything I needed to know. I found a passion for cycling and an outlet to combine my faith and newfound athletics.
The following year, a colleague and I flew to Bulgaria and met the youth who benefitted from our fundraising ride. We spent five days in the Rhodope Mountains, ministering alongside of True Horizons and the Hillmans. During that trip, the idea that was sparked began to fan into flame. A cycling ministry was born.
FUN FACT: Gabe & Melissa Hillman are still serving as Missionaries in Bulgaria and doing great things! Gabe happened to be in the United States with his family [10 years later] on this 2021 Key West Bike Ride and he cycled with us for two days before flying back to Bulgaria!
Bob Carman, from Maryland, is training regularly, even with snow and low temperatures as he prepared for the KWBR2021.
Ends of the Earth Cycling, a ministry of New International, is an active bicycling community impacting youth globally. Since Feb. 2012, we have hosted 35 cycling tours in 30 different states. We have raised more than $789,000 for youth ministries all over the world, serving in 20 different countries.
Every ride is about youth and for youth causes. To God be all the Glory!
The Southernmost Point of the USA is the finishline of the annual Key West Bike Ride, presented by Ends of the Earth Cycling. [picture from previous year]
This March 20-24, 2021 marked the 10th-anniversary of the first ride. Starting at Christ Community Church in Fort Myers, cyclists from all over the USA enjoyed a socially-distanced journey across the Everglades & through the Florida Keys. The beneficiary for this 2021 tour was Missio Link International, an organization working with at-risk youth in Romania. Their story, as well as many others can be read right here on the Ends Cycling’s Blog: www.EndsCycling.com/blog