Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Father-Son Team to Kayak 200-Mile Chesapeake Bay to Raise Support for Pandemic Hunger Relief

On July 16, a father and son sea kayaking team will embark on a self-styled expedition they’ve named the #bay200challenge, a 12-day kayaking project that will take them on a 200-mile (320 km) north-to-south traverse of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest bay in the United States. The challenge will help raise awareness and support for one of the most pressing COVID-19-related issues affecting people today—hunger.

Maryland resident Hearly Mayr and his 13-year-old son, Andreas Mayr, decided to create the challenge to spend time together outdoors this summer after more than a year of being mostly home due to travel and social distancing restrictions.

“The last 16 months had their share of ups and downs, but they really helped our family put a lot of things in perspective,” says Hearly Mayr, a father of two boys, Andreas,13, and Carsten, 11. His wife, Andrea, who is a pediatric intensive care nurse and a recent family nurse practitioner graduate, bore the biggest share of the burden, he adds, as she spent countless hours assisting critically-ill children, including COVID-19 patients.

“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 United States 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 vacation to get people to pay attention to the fact that while the pandemic is easing in the U.S., people in other countries are still facing very serious COVID-19 related challenges each day, especially hunger.”

The #bay200challenge is supporting ADRA International’s COVID-19 hunger pandemic response campaign, which is aiming to raise $3 million by July 31. This support will go to 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 $1 donated is being matched and will become $3. To learn more or to make a donation today, go to

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. 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, according to the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises. 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.

“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 Chesapeake Conference's Atholton Adventist Academy in Columbia, Md., and is a member of the Nigh Hawks Pathfinder Club, a co-ed scouting group at New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, Maryland. As a bonus, if successful, he could become one of the youngest, if not the youngest person, to paddle the entire Chesapeake Bay. “It’s going to be fun and challenging. I’m excited and can’t wait!”

The #bay200challenge will launch from Elk River Park south of Elkton, Md., on Friday, July 16. The trip will be divided into 12 stages and will 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 Boreal 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 reach their destination by July 28.

“This challenge is also an amazing opportunity to experience nature in a different way, to create new memories, and to see what’s physically possible for the both of us,” adds Mayr, who will be turning 50 in January. “Also, 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. It’s an investment worth making.”

Mayr 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.

Get updates by following the hashtag #bay200challenge or follow @hearlymayr on Facebook and Instagram.


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