ADEC’s 44th Annual Ride-A-Bike is still four months away, but the 2016 Ride Marshal – Roy Stern – already has logged 83 miles and raised more than $1,200.

Roy completed an 83-mile ride on Dec. 30, 2015 along the Withlacoochee State Trail in Florida, in honor of his 80th birthday. He asked friends and family to donate $80 to ADEC as Ride-A-Bike pledges to help him celebrate the blessings of his own life and the lives of those living with the challenges of disabilities.

He called his adventure “Roy’s Ride to Celebrate Life” and used it as a kickoff to his own participation in Ride-A-Bike, an event he’s attended for more than 15 years. He’ll be there again this year, on May 21 at Northridge High School in Middlebury, leading the other riders as ride marshal.

“ADEC has a special place in my family’s heart,” Roy said. “What better way to celebrate life than to help those who celebrate living every day?”

He can’t remember how far back his participation goes, but Roy hasn’t missed many Ride-A-Bikes since he retired from ministry. Not only does he ride a bike, he also collects pledges and involves friends and family.

In fact, the Sterns have quite a Ride-A-Bike legacy. Five years in a row, from 2005 to 2009, one of Roy’s grandchildren took home the top youth prize for raising the most pledges. Grandson Micah Gilbert, now a senior at Memorial High School in Elkhart, took the honor four times; Micah’s sister Dinah won it once. The family team, Star by the Stream, won the team award in 2007, and Roy’s daughter, Tonja Stern-Gilbert (mother of Micah and Dinah) won the Bradley S. Vite Award for dedicated volunteerism in 2011.

Each year, Roy rode out in front, leading the family and accruing his own awards for being among the top adult pledge raisers. His wife, Phillies, cheered them on.

And, yes, they were all together in Florida for the 80-mile, 80th birthday ride. Micah rode the whole way with his grandfather. Roy’s son, Phillip Stern, cut a holiday vacation in London short to fly back to the United States and join his father on the trail. Other family members joined him on parts the ride — Dinah, Tonja, son-in-law Jeff Stern-Gilbert, and daughter Roya Stern.

A special birthday surprise for Roy was a visit from a former exchange student, Eduardo Aguiar, who lived with the Sterns in 1979. The two families have stayed in touch but haven’t visited each other in 36 years because Eduardo lives in Brazil. Turns out Eduardo is working in Austin, Texas this year, so he flew to Inverness to ride with Roy.

The attention he’s gotten for the ride has surprised and humbled Roy. The more people who heard about it, the more support he received. The bike shop owner in Florida, where Roy’s son Phil rented a recumbent bike, even contributed. Encouraged by the response, Roy will continue collecting donations to Ride-A-Bike until the May 21 event. He’s got a new goal in mind – Top Adult Pledge Winner. He’s been in the Top 5 circle before, but never the winner. To achieve that status, he’ll need to raise about $5,000.

Roy is not deterred by a far-reaching goal. In fact, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to complete his birthday ride, given his new octogenarian status. He was pleased to finish in under seven hours, celebrating at the end with all of his family.

“I think I could have gone farther,” he said, “but I wanted to get back before dark.”

Want to contribute to Roy’s Ride?

  • Visit ADEC’s website and click on the Donate button to give online.
  • Mail checks to ADEC, P.O. Box 398, Bristol, IN 46507. Be sure to designate any gift to “Roy’s Ride.”
  • Join Roy at the 44th Annual ADEC Ride-A-Bike, May 21, 2016. For more information about Ride-A-Bike or ADEC, please contact Nancy Miller at 574-848-2440.