Biking for disabilities

A fraternity spends its summer raising awareness and money for disabled

Advertisement

Seventy members of the Pi Kappa Phi are using their summers to show a side of fraternities that differs the stereotypical beer bash and toga party.

But their main goal has little to do with promoting the Greek system.

The fraternity brothers on June 1 began a bike trip that will take them from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. in order to raise funds and public awareness on behalf of people with disabilities.

The journey is expected to be completed Aug. 4

On Thursday, Day 19 of the trip, the cyclists stopped in Craig overnight and their stay included a visit to Craig Middle School.

"It's a good experience being able to give ourselves to help others," said J.J. Madden from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "This has been a life-changing experience for guys in the past and I can see how it can make an impact."

Pi Kappa Phi has worked with Push America on what is called the Journey of Hope for the last 15 years. Before the ride, each participant raises money (riders $4,000 and crew $2,000) for non-profit organizations that work with disabled children. Last year's ride raised more than $500,000.

Along the road they do more than just pedal. Almost every night the riders promote disability awareness in a couple different ways.

Some nights riders perform a puppet show called Kids on the Block. The show features puppets with disabilities and it emphasizes the amount of capabilities a disabled person still has.

"I heard a story last week on a stop about how one of our plays showed a mom who had a disabled child that her child was capable of things she was unaware of," said Madden. "The mother then became much more involved in the child's life."

The Pi Kapps also participate in what they call "friendship visits" where the philanthropists meet with disabled children to dance, eat or just hang out.

"The highlight so far has been hanging out with some of the kids," said Ben Kogus, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley. "Seeing them smile makes the ride easier."

The trip has revealed to the college students some great scenery. In addition, some of the stopovers have provided some interesting stories.

"One night we stayed in a place called Baker, Nevada, population 50," said Kogus. "Our showers were a bucket and a hose."

"A couple of days later after Baker we stayed in a place that had only hot water," said David Henkel from Elon College in North Carolina. "I would take the bucket and hose over scalding hot water any day."

A typical day for the cyclists is to wake up around 5 a.m., hit the road an hour later, stop for lunch and then ride a couple of more hours to the final destination. Each day they ride for about 70 miles.

"The riding is challenging but it's not too difficult," said Kogus, whose older brother was also a Journey of Hope rider. "Not very many of us have biked a lot before but we trained ahead of time to be prepared."

With rewards outweighing the work, the summer of biking to help others will be one the riders say they will remember.

"Just spending time with someone or holding their hands helps you see the purpose," said Madden.

"It makes that 5 o'clock wake-up bearable."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.