Thirty-three men in red, white and blue cycling jerseys were spread among rooms Thursday at the Boys and Girls Club of Craig, padding barefoot around and playing games like Twister, Dance Dance Revolution and carpet ball.
In the craft room, Cheyenne Gensler, 8, was painting a scene with brightly-colored temperas.
“We’re painting with bikers,” she announced, pointing at one of the cyclists.
The group, members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, rode 90 miles Thursday from Dinosaur to Craig as part of The Journey of Hope, a cross-country ride to raise awareness about people with disabilities.
When fraternity members arrived at the club, the group performed a puppet show called “Kids on the Block.”
Eight-year-old Mariah Yates said she learned from the puppets about blind people and those who are confined to wheelchairs.
“It was about people who were different than us,” Mariah said of the puppet show. “But, they can do all sorts of cool, different things, like using little dots to make a word.”
She was referring to one of the characters, Renaldo, who is visually impaired and can only see dark shapes and shadows, but reads with Braille.
She said if she met someone with a disability now, she wouldn’t laugh at them — she would tell them they were lucky.
“Because they can do things that other people can’t,” she said.
The Journey of Hope is in its 23rd year as a project of Push America, a philanthropic organization of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The 33 cyclists represented 19 colleges and universities across the country.
The 4,000-mile, nine-week trek takes the group on a journey to meet with non-profit and disability-oriented organizations across the country.
Before arriving in Craig, the team taught a group of blind children how to ride bikes, said David Hamrick, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“We’re so glad to visit places like this and bring awareness to a group that is often stereotyped,” said Hamrick, a member of The Journey of Hope’s crew. “It’s important because a lot of times, in TV and movies, they portray some really cruel ways of referring to people around you who might have the slightest disability.”
On Thursday night, the group had dinner and socialized with local Horizons Specialized Services clients.
“We’re happy to stop anywhere where we can make a difference and do some good along the way,” he said.
This summer marks the fourth year the bike ride has stopped in Craig.
Dana Duran, Boys & Girls Club of Craig executive director, said it is one of her favorite days of the summer.
“This goes back to the whole expanding their knowledge and their view of the world,” Duran said. “These guys are from all over the United States. It opens up the kids’ minds to different possibilities.”
She said it was important to expose young children to disability awareness and answer their questions truthfully.
“I think they will encounter all kinds of people throughout their life, and they can build an appreciation for the differences rather than singling people out,” she said.