Jenkins Chan, of Seattle, plays a game of keep-away with Makyah Counts, 8, left, and Lael Conner, 6, on Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig. Chan was part of a group of 28 riders traveling across America for Journey of Hope, hosted by Push America, which raises money and awareness for people with disabilities.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jenkins Chan, of Seattle, plays a game of keep-away with Makyah Counts, 8, left, and Lael Conner, 6, on Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig. Chan was part of a group of 28 riders traveling across America for Journey of Hope, hosted by Push America, which raises money and awareness for people with disabilities.

Riders bike through Craig on way to D.C.

Cross country tour benefits the disabled

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Drew Gottula has a dream of becoming an astronaut, but for this summer, his focus is on helping people with disabilities.

"It just brightens your day," said Gottula, a senior at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "They make everything better no matter what day you're having."

For the 22nd year, members of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi have decided to do something for others by joining Journey of Hope to ride across the country for nine weeks and roughly 4,000 miles.

The purpose of the journey is to raise funds for disabled groups across the country, while spreading awareness about people with disabilities.

On Thursday, the journey brought 28 riders, six assisting crewmembers and a crew manager through Craig. They arrived at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. Highway 40, in the afternoon and spent the night in sleeping bags on the floor of the club.

As a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, Gottula worked with a group of students with disabilities at Fairview High School in Boulder. That exposure to disabled people inspired him to join Journey of Hope

While in Craig, the riders met with about 40 children for a puppet show. The goal was to create open dialogue about people with disabilities. By talking to puppets, the youths are able to ask questions that they may not otherwise feel comfortable asking people.

On Friday morning, the riders left for Steamboat Springs.

Their ride started June 14 in San Francisco. Three different teams formed, taking different routes across the country, Gottula is part of the north route that passed through Craig and Steamboat.

All teams will meet Aug. 15 in Washington, D.C. Along the way, the north route team will hit stops in Grand Island, Neb., Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The riders have been preparing physically and mentally for about six months.

"I got my bike in February, and I would train whenever weather permitted," Gottula said.

To train, he would ride his bike from Boulder to Fort Collins, and he had support of family and friends who helped him get in shape.

Members like Gottula had to raise $5,000 minimum in their local communities to go toward Push For America, the organization that coordinates Journey of Hope. In addition, they were responsible for covering any of their other expenses during the trip.

From the money raised, grants are given out to different organizations. Locally, a $500 grant will go to Horizons Specialized Services, which provides services to people with disabilities.

Gottula raised money by sending letters to friends, family and professors asking for support. He also organized an all-you-can-eat pancake dinner at his home for local children, and he was able to get support from Cheba Hut, a Boulder restaurant.

Although he arrived in Craig tired, Gottula's spirits were high.

"It's a lot of fun to get to meet and help so many people from different states," he said.

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