LifeCycles, a Lancaster nonprofit that, according to its website, builds “young men of character with a Christ-centered bicycle touring adventure experience,” was founded last year by 56-year-old Lee DeRemer, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. The organization, which started with only four boys, grew this year to about 45 regular bicyclists ranging from 12 to 18 years of age.
“When I finished, I couldn’t believe I did it.”
That was 13-year-old Jeffrey Sanchez’s reaction after biking 12 miles in his first ride with LifeCycles. It was an achievement he doubted was possible.
Months later, Sanchez, who was recruited earlier this year by LifeCycles founder Lee DeRemer at Water Street Rescue Mission’s Teen Haven, said he had learned to be not only a better cyclist, but a better person.
And all it took was an encouraging message and some free bicycle gear, thanks to the generous donors upon which LifeCycles depends.
It’s a simple but compelling approach, something DeRemer has all but perfected in just one year since founding the nonprofit.
Take 18-year-old Philip Gomba.
After his parents’ divorce two years ago, his life began to spiral downward. He was sapped of motivation and nearly gave up on school. But he trudged forward. He graduated from Penn Manor High School in 2015 and planned, albeit tentatively, to enlist in the Air Force.
By then he had begun training with LifeCycles two to three times a week. In August, he, along with eight other boys and seven mentors, pedaled 290 miles to Niagara Falls, sometimes riding 60 miles a day.
“Every day we would go to a new campsite,” Gomba told LNP. “Seeing all the boys working together, setting up camp in a short time, with everyone encouraging each other, definitely helped me.”
It was a trip we’re sure Gomba and his fellow bicyclists will never forget, one that tested their physical and mental fortitude, and perhaps changed their lives.
The Niagara Falls trip, Gomba said, “really taught me how to not give up on things and to keep working toward my goals.”
In January of this year, he began Air Force basic training.
What an inspiring story. To Gomba, we thank you in advance for your service.
To DeRemer, and the dozens of volunteers, we thank you for providing an opportunity for kids to be reminded of what it’s like to not only achieve their dreams, but to share those accomplishments with a loving, encouraging group.
And we look forward to the LifeCycles girls chapter, which DeRemer hopes to start in the near future.
LifeCycles is yet another extraordinary way through which kids in Lancaster County can reinvent themselves and discover purpose in their lives.
All kids need is encouragement. The fact that LifeCycles provides that while promoting exercise and healthy habits makes the nonprofit all the more special.
The truth is, all kids deserve that moment of satisfaction and pride, a moment that, when they look back years later, makes them smile as they remember: “When I finished, I couldn’t believe I did it.”