Indiana to Florida: 1,166-mile bike ride raises funds for Cape Coral family

Craig Handel
 |  Special to Fort Myers News-Press

If Andrew Shipley still had been alive on Oct. 27 for the couple’s eighth anniversary, wife Jessie is convinced he would’ve bought her a gift and prepared her favorite meal.

“Drew was a wonderful man,” Jessie said. “He was kind and generous and fun to be around. He loved his family and would literally do anything for anyone who needed help.”

However, Drew has been gone for almost four months. 

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While visiting in-laws in Kokomo, Indiana, on July 2, Drew collapsed in the hallway. Despite the efforts of medical professionals, the 39-year-old died from what doctors discovered was undiagnosed leukemia.

“We had no idea,” Jessie said. “The last few weeks he came home with terrible bruises, but he googled and thought it was anemia,” Jessie said. “I said, ‘Drew, just go to the doctor,’ but we were ready to go on vacation. He was going to work. He always had a high pain threshold, but he had been complaining of headaches.”

The two had recently bought a house in Cape Coral, where they lived with Jessie’s three daughters. “He loved my girls as if they were his own.”

With bills on the way, friends and family came forward to help Jessie and the girls.

While friend Danette Larson started a GoFundMe page (Andrew Shipley Memorial Ride) which has raised more than $23,000, Andrew’s brother Nate came up with the idea of biking from Kokomo to Cape Coral.

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When Nate told his sister in-law Jessie he and some buddies wanted to honor his brother and her husband with the 1,166-mile bike ride, she thought it was interesting, but “I didn’t think they could pull it off.”

But watching Nate and some of his buddies come down that Cape Coral street on Oct. 13 warmed her heart and made her emotional.

“I will never look at Drew’s brothers the same,” she said.

Joining Nate were Mason Geiger, Nate Gertner, Heath Shock, Noel Howett and Kyle Downs. They’re part of a group called 2nd Mile Adventures, a Christian-based group, which leads groups on outdoor excursions. It also aims to connect others to Christ by challenging them to go a new distance physically, mentally and spiritually.

The group began their trip on Oct. 10. While one person biked 40-50 miles, the others followed in a Ford Transit Van, which had a six-bike rack.

“We had a futon mattress in it,” Nate said. “One person was driving, another navigating.”

Nate kept a photo of Drew on him during the race. After the rains lifted in Georgia, the group saw a beautiful sign.

“We saw the biggest rainbow,” Nate said. “It was so bright. I said, ‘Man, that’s from Drew.’”

For the last 30 miles, Drew’s brother Adam joined the group on its trek.

“We were kind of joking, ‘He doesn’t ride,’” Nate said. “But he did pretty well.”

With the money raised, Jessie has been able to keep up with mortgage and grocery costs. She also is helped by Drew’s parents – Steve, a retiring pastor, and Hally – who live in Fort Myers.

“I try to keep busy but when things are slow or we go to church, it’s hard,” Jessie said. “I’m really humbled and grateful with what Nate put together. The support of me and the girls is really heartwarming.

“I’m really lucky that I married into such a good family.”

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