18-year-old bikes from St. Louis to Panama City Beach to raise money for mental health services
News Herald - 6/4/2018
June 04--PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Four weeks before 18-year-old Wade Hahn set off on an 800-mile bicycle ride from his home in St. Louis, Missouri to his family's vacation spot in Panama City Beach, he finally bought a bike.
Wade Hahn isn't a trained cyclist -- his bike wasn't even properly fitted to him before he started the trip -- but he grew up on stories, told by his dad, about family friends who would pick up used bikes or motorcycles at yard sales and take off, traveling all around the country. Ever since junior high, his mom said, he'd been talking about cycling from Missouri to Florida.
"At first, they weren't really down for it," Wade Hahn said of his parents. "But eventually, they hopped on board."
"I thought it was a little crazy," his mother, Erika Hahn said. "But we thought, the way Wade is, he's going to do it."
During his senior year in high school, the trip started to take shape, with Wade Hahn and several friends biking down and camping along the way. Unfortunately, the others ended up not being able to make it, leaving Wade Hahn to make the journey all by himself. Far from discouraged, though, the turn of events only made Wade Hahn more determined to make an impact. Instead of just riding for fun, he opted instead to raise money for a cause close to his heart, the Community Counseling Foundation, which helps provide mental health services and counseling for suicide survivors back in Missouri.
It's a cause Wade Hahn and his family know all too well, as he's had a family member commit suicide, and has had several friends either attempt or contemplate taking their own lives.
"I just know there's a lot of people who have dealt with these issues," Wade Hahn said. "I know this was pretty ridiculous and would get a lot of attention out there."
The trip took 12 days, with Wade Hahn putting in about seven hours each day, burning through anywhere from 50 to 70 miles on his Giant brand road bike. His father, who followed behind him in a van with a sign warning motorists, said he was a workhorse, but some days, Wade Hahn said it was hard to get up and get back on the bike.
"What kept me going was the people who were supporting me and the people who said there was no way I was going to make it," Wade Hahn said. "I just focused on those two things."
Early Sunday morning, Wade Hahn finally rode into Panama City Beach, pedaling up to the Gulf and holding his bike triumphantly in the air. Posts on social media about the journey have garnered thousands of likes, and have been shared on the I Love Panama City Beach Facebook page.
"We're just so proud," Erika Hahn said. "It's amazing. It's a huge accomplishment."
The family will be in town until this Friday and they're still raising money for the Community Counseling Center Foundation through a GoFundMe page titled Bike for Life, which can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/qmadp8-bike-for-life. So far, they've raised over $4,723 of their $5,000 goal. And, when it's finally time to head back, Wade Hahn said his father will be gracious enough to let him ride in the van, rather than make him pedal all the way home.
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