Summer Experience: Biking for a cause

By Nicholas Taylor

This summer, I advocated and raised funds for people with disabilities through the 30th Annual Journey of Hope: A Cross-Country Ride to Benefit People with Disabilities. 

Journey of Hope is one of three summer events the Pi Kappa Phi’s owned-and-operated philanthropy arm, The Ability Experience, offers to its members. Journey of Hope is made up of three routes that simultaneously cross the country from west to east. Each route begins in its respected city, Seattle; San Francisco; and Long Beach, California; with all three routes ending together in Washington, D.C. This experience covers an average of 3,700 miles in just over 60 days.

Representing 24 different states and 28 colleges and universities, this year 110 Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity members raised more than $650,000 for people with disabilities.

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Since joining Pi Kappa Phi at Bowling Green State University, participating in Journey of Hope has always been a dream of mine. Having the opportunity to cross the country while engaging with hundreds of people with different abilities is truly life changing. 

To prepare for this trip, I had to raise $5,500, participate in online webinars and complete daily training workouts. For a busy senior business major, this was no simple task. I’m involved in various clubs and preparing to graduate, but there also seemed like no better time to take this leap of faith for an experience of a lifetime. 

An average day for me on the road began around 5 or 6 a.m. We have 30 mins after wake up to pack our bags and be dressed for the day’s ride. Then we have our breakfast, followed by our team circle-up meeting, where we plan out the day. After this, we take off in pace lines of 3-4 people that we ride with for the day. 

While riding, we have the opportunity to stop at supported crew stops around every 10 miles on the ride to fill up our water bottles, eat a snack, stretch or simply to take a second off of the bike. Once finishing the ride, typically a 70-to-80-mile trek, we usually had time to get a shower, set up beds in our sponsored lodging and prepare for dinner. Usually, dinner is a friendship visit where we spend time with people with disabilities and sure they are always smiling, laughing and making friends! 

Most friendship visits include dance parties and games. We looked forward to our interactions with them while riding our bikes. Although many of us enjoy biking and the surreal challenges we face while attempting to bike across the country, the friendship visits are what truly impacted our lives forever. Lights out was usually around 9 or 10 p.m. to ensure that we got enough sleep for the next busy day.

The trip concluded on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on August 12 with all three teams arriving together as one. We were greeted by more than 1,000 family and friends and 100 Pi Kappa Phi alumni.

Looking back, this experience has already altered my life in the most positive way possible. It is really hard to comprehend how far I’ve biked across the country and honestly even harder to understand how many lives we’ve been able to have an impact.