This summer, Lifecycles embarked on its third annual challenge ride with 17 teenage boys and 16 adult leaders. The crew spent four days bicycling throughout the White Mountains in New Hampshire and three days in Acadia National Park in Maine. In between rides, which are organized into smaller groups according to ability levels, the boys and leaders spent time camping.
Lifecycles founder Lee DeRemer said that it was a joy watching the boys flourish on the challenge rides as they accomplished something that they may not have thought they could conquer. One of the groups completed a 78-mile loop around Mount Washington at an elevation of more than 4,400 feet.
Lifecyles is a nonprofit mentoring program committed to building young men of character through bicycling and outdoor adventures. Past summer challenge rides have taken groups to Lake Placid and Niagara Falls, and the destination for the summer 2018 ride will be the Laurel Highlands in western Pennsylvania.
Aside from the annual challenge rides, Lifecycles hosts weekly rides for teenage boys from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from April to September, as well as on some Saturdays. Lifecycles provides bikes, helmets, T-shirts, and hot meals free of charge. The rides meet and end at East Donegal Riverfront Park in Marietta and Amos Herr Park in Landisville.
In October and November, when it becomes dark earlier in the evenings, Lifecycles meets indoors at Rainbow's Ends Youth Services (REYS), 105 Fairview St., Mount Joy. The organization will take a break beginning in December and resume regular programming at REYS on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. The indoor program includes lessons on basic bicycle repairs and maintenance, basketball and dodgeball in the gymnasium, and a hot meal. Interested individuals are encouraged to sign up at http://www.lifecyclesteam.org ahead of time if they would like to attend. Walk-ins are welcome too.
Lifecycles currently serves approximately 50 youths. Volunteers are welcome to sign up to bring meals for the group, and financial donations are welcome too, in order to keep the program free. "When people see the boys and the program in action, they get hooked," said DeRemer.
"Lifecycles is the story of these boys building their lives. Every face is a story," DeRemer noted. DeRemer is grateful for the volunteer leaders who believe in the vision of Lifecycles. The program continues to grow by word-of-mouth, as no official recruiting is done by Lifecycles. Boys travel from throughout York and Lancaster counties to participate, and plans are currently in the works to open another chapter that will meet in eastern Lancaster County. Adding another meeting location will help to accommodate the growth and maintain the small group atmosphere.
"My attitude is that I love growth but not for growth's sake. I love growth because I care about the boys," said DeRemer. "God has them here for a reason, and we don't turn anyone away."
Experience levels vary. DeRemer shared how an individual who had never ridden a bike before showed up at Lifecycles and was taught how. As he learned to ride and became consistently involved at Lifecycles, the leaders saw changes in his behavior and overall attitude and demeanor. "He's part of this community now, and we love having him," said DeRemer.
In the past year, the leaders have seen not only a lot of physical growth in the group as far as strength and stamina when it comes to riding, but also an increase in spiritual growth and overall maturity. "We meet each boy where they are," DeRemer stated. "We are all about opening doors for the boys." Whether that be with bicycling, helping them to complete an application to college or trade school or the armed forces, encouraging them in any area of life, or meeting any other need that may arise, the Lifecycle volunteers are committed because they care. "A community is being built around this, and we just watch with wonder to see where it goes," said DeRemer.