150 miles closer to completing Birdseye Youth Center

Jay Harder (left) and Jason Throop are on a 150-mile hike to raise money to complete the Birdseye Youth Center. Photo from the Facebook

When people believe something is an important and worthy cause, they can travel to great lengths to make that cause a reality.

For Jason Throop and his close friend, Jay Harder, that worthy cause is completing the Birdseye Youth Center. This is why they are in the middle of a 150-mile trek through eastern Indiana. They figure if they can inspire 300 people to donate $1 per mile, they will raise enough money to replace the heating and air-conditioning system in the building being renovated next to Victory Worship Center, 105 State Road 145.

The Birdseye Youth Center has been in development for a couple of years now. The construction has been challenging. “We had to entirely rebuild the front of the building; it was falling out literally,” Throop explained. “We rebuilt the first floor. The entire drop ceiling fell. None of the bathrooms were ADA-compliant; we had to cut in all new bathrooms and plumbing in the floor and renew the concrete. It’s been more than we ever wanted to do.”

But Throop and the church’s mission board see the youth center as an essential addition to the town.

“So we feel we’ve invested ourselves into it both physically and emotionally just by the work we’ve done and the bonds we’ve made with people helping,” he added.

What began in 2019 ended up slowing in 2020 and was significantly impacted by rising construction costs, but now, with hopes of opening up later this year, the church is raising funds to get across the finish line.

You can see the work here.

The church knew it would have to replace the 40-year-old furnace in the building and add the air conditioning, but through the delays, the price has created a steep hill to climb.

“We have done about 90 percent of the work ourselves,” Throop explained. “But the cost for HVAC has more than doubled in price over the past two years.”

When it is finished, local youth will be able to hang out playing air hockey or pool, watch television and even prepare some food in the kitchenette. According to Throop, Birdseye Park is used a lot during the warmer months, but this building will provide an option when the weather isn’t as accommodating.

“We would like to be able to offer tutoring there in the future,” he added. “And some things to help the town like a food bank or anything like that.”

But they’ve got to get the building done first. Throop and Harder have been friends for a couple of decades, and in their shared love for being outdoors and hiking, they devised a plan to draw attention to the need and raise $15,000. They set out on Saturday, March 11.

As of Wednesday this week, they had made it through the Knobstone Trail, Indiana’s longest footpath — a 60-mile backcountry-hiking trail passing through Clark State Forest, Elk Creek Public Fishing Area, and Jackson-Washington State Forest.

When Throop had a moment and cellular connection to discuss the endeavor, the pair were waiting for a supply run in preparation for a three-day slog on the pavement. You can follow their route as they post on the following Facebook page.

“There have been some really cold nights; we woke up to 20 degrees this morning,” Throop said.

It rained all day the second day they were out. However, despite the mixed March weather, they’ve been averaging about 12 miles daily, carrying about 40 and 45 pounds each. They surpassed their furthest hike when they reached mile 34 on day three as they were still working through the Knobstone.

The high point for the outdoor-oriented pair has been the beauty of that area of the state. “Just enjoying God’s creation,” Throop said, adding that it helps with the downside of the hike, like leg cramps, blisters, rerouting and, as mentioned, weather.

They pray for success each morning before setting out and end the day with prayers of thanks. Throop said the hike reflects a Christian’s faith walk.

“I was thinking about this as we were hiking yesterday,” he said. “The trail markers for the Knobstone are white squares painted on the trees.”

Throop connected following those markers to Psalm 119:105.

“It doesn’t matter if you come up to another lane and it looks easy, regardless of how hard the hill looks — sometimes those markers are straight up hills — regardless of whether it looks easy or looks hard, you just stay on the trail,” he said. “I just thought about the Psalm where it says the Lord is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.”

It’s why they’ve continued to persevere with the Birdseye Youth Center.

“If we just stay on the path God has set for us, regardless of how easy or how hard it is, we’ll get through it,” Throop said.

The fundraising site shows they have raised about $2,400 so far, but according to Throop, with private donations, they more than halfway there. To support the mission, you can donate online here or mail a check to Calvary Ministries Outreach International PO Box 73, Birdseye, Ind., 47513.