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Grace Alumni and Friends Ride 1,300 Miles to Raise $40,000 for Widow in Need

July 2, 2020, is a date that the Shipley family will never forget. 

On that day, 39-year-old Andrew “Drew” Shipley, of Cape Coral, Florida, took his last breath while on vacation to visit his family in Kokomo, Indiana. He died of undiagnosed leukemia that led to bleeding in the brain.

Without life insurance, his unexpected passing left his wife and three children in a vulnerable position. Drew’s siblings, Adam Shipley, Summer Avey, and Nate Shipley were left asking the question, “What can we do to support our sister-in-law, Jessie, and her daughters?” 

The night before the funeral, Drew’s younger brother, Nate, a 2011 Grace graduate, phoned his good friend Mason Geiger — a biking/adventure extraordinaire. “I’ve got this crazy idea,” he said. “What do you think of it?” 

Nate went on to pitch the idea of biking from Kokomo to Cape Coral — a whopping 1,300 miles — over four days without stopping. Geiger needed to think about it. 

It wasn’t long before Geiger gave Nate a thumbs up. The pair started planning the course, recruiting a team of six riders, and mobilizing countless fundraisers and supporters — a team that included a number of Grace alumni.

“I’m so grateful for my team who supported me logistically and financially,” said Nate. 

The Shipley’s community rallied around them and demonstrated their support in a myriad of ways. 2nd Mile Adventures, a local, faith-based riding group let the team use its van with a six-bike hitch on the back. A number of companies joined the effort as corporate sponsors, and some supporters even rode alongside the team for portions of the journey. 

The team began the Andrew Shipley Memorial Ride at midnight on October 10. As the ride went on, each rider would take a turn logging 50 miles at a time. For some of them, it was their first time tackling a ride of such intensity. 

“I’m a mountain biker, not a road biker,” said Nate, whose first 50-mile day of training was only two days prior to the memorial ride. “It was only by God’s strength that I was able to complete 195 total miles in four days,” he said.

As expected, the four-day journey was not a “ride” in the park.

“There were definitely obstacles along the way,” Nate said. “We had dogs chase after us at one point, owls dove down to get one rider’s helmet at another time, and we saw a fox, a dead bear, and a bobcat along the way. It was definitely an adventure!” he exclaimed. 

While the ride had its challenges, there were moments that Nate and the gang will never forget. Moments where God’s presence — and Drew’s — felt so strong.  

The crew had just arrived in Calhoun, Georgia after a stint of rain. They waited at a local park for the rider to come in when a rainbow spanned across the sky. Nate remembers thinking, “That’s gotta be from God, showing us Drew is with us.” The thought gave Nate a renewed sense of energy. 

But the most impactful portion of the ride was the final 30 miles. Adam, Nate’s older brother who hadn’t ridden 30 miles since his freshman year of college, joined the gang, and all seven of them finished together. 

In the final mile of the ride, the crew signed with their hands ‘I love you,’ imitating one of the last photos taken of Drew holding up the ‘I love you’ sign to his wife. 

“We see that picture as a final sign of Drew telling all of us that he loves us,” said Nate. “In that final mile or two, we were all saying, ‘We love you, Drew!’ It was very emotional, and there were lots of tears. That final ride was just amazing,” said Nate. 

The Shipley family is still working toward its $40,000 goal. To give to the cause, click here. To watch live footage of the journey, meet the riders, and learn more about the Andrew Shipley Memorial Ride, click here

Expanding the Mission

Drew’s passing led to an even broader-reaching mission, a mission that God had been stirring in Adam’s heart for some time.

“Two months before Drew died, I remember Adam saying that he felt like God had burdened him to look out for widows,” recalled Nate. “Looking back, it’s like God was preparing him and burdening him to look after Jessie.”

But the family isn’t stopping with Jessie. They are now launching a nonprofit called WOW 127. WOW stands for Watching Out for Widows. The number 127 comes from James 1:27: 

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: 

to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, 

and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Nate went on to explain that two of his aunts are widows as well, and he sees a huge need for the church to step up in this area. “We want to help churches do a better job looking after widows,” Nate explained. “The vision is to help churches start a ministry for widows and then to empower them to pay it forward to another church.”

For more information about WOW 127, and how you can get involved, send an email to WOW127info@gmail.com.

Tagged With: Connected Community, Alumni