Journey of Hope cyclists roll through town on cross-country trek

For nearly 40 years the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity has made an annual cross-country journey supporting individuals with disabilities. This year is no exception.

Journey of Hope, organized by Push America, is a cycling group that raises funds as well as awareness for volunteerism.

It was roughly two weeks ago when the group of more than 30 cyclists departed Long Beach, Calif., for Washington, D.C.

This month the group cycled through Pahrump, staying at Pahrump Valley High School for the night.

Crew member Zack Usie said the crew normally stays anywhere that has all of the necessary accommodations.

Usie, 20, is a U.S. history major at Arizona State University.

“For the most part, it’s high schools, community centers and churches that put us up. Every now and again we’ll get the occasional hotel stay,” he said.

Along the way, the group’s mission is to enhance the lives of the people they meet by way of grant funding and community events.

Taylor Thompson of Cape Girardeau, Mo., is a student at Truman State University.

“Things are going amazing and I could not have asked for a better group of cyclists and a better crew to lead them across the country. The spirits are very high. It’s just fantastic,” he said.

The trip is not always leisurely.

The group averages 75 miles each day through some of the most challenging terrain.

When not cycling, Thompson said the crew attends what are called “Friendship Visits.”

“After we completed our cycling, we shower and visit an organization in each town that serves people with disabilities and we call those friendship visits. They are a great opportunity for us to learn more about people with disabilities and interact with them. Many times it’s a dance or some sporting activity that allows us to bond with them and then to us,” he said.

Prior to the trek, each cyclist raises at least $5,500 to take part.

All the money raised is them gifted to the organization.

“We have this unique opportunity where we as a team can put a face to every dollar raised across the country,” Thompson said. “Some of the guys approach family and friends for donations. Others go to local businesses and some guys even put on ‘Pie-a-Pi’ competitions where they just set up a booth at their campuses and get pied in the face at a dollar or more a pie,” he said.

The student also said other members of the organization are participating in the ride on different routes.

“We happen to be the southernmost route but we also have a northern route which goes from San Francisco to D.C. We have a Transamerica route from Seattle to D.C. Each route has its own challenges but they are relatively cool compared to the weather and cycling conditions that we face on our southern route,” he said.

Since its inception in 1977, Push America has sponsored numerous altruistic efforts.

In 1991, the first week-long construction project entitled Push Camp, allowed Pi Kappa Phi members to forgo the traditional college spring break experience to attend this week of service, brotherhood and fun.

Additionally, AccessABILITY, introduced in 1994, provides the opportunity for undergraduates and alumni to participate in local service projects that makes homes accessible through the construction of wheelchair ramps.

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