But come June 13, he’ll set off on a 60+ day, 3,700-mile journey across the United States.
“I’d never biked before March,” said Barnett, a sophomore biomedical sciences major at Troy University. “But since I decided to do the Journey of Hope, I’ve been training as much as I can.”
Barnett is president of Gamma Gamma Chapter (Troy) of Pi Kappa Phi. The national fraternity sponsors the annual bike ride across America to raise awareness for The Ability Experience, the national philanthropy that aids people with disabilities.
“There are over 54 million Americans living with a disability today,” Barnett said. “People with disabilities face many challenges every day that you and I cannot imagine.”
He knows about those abilities first-hand, through his fiancée’s brother. “Blake was diagnosed with epilepsy several years ago and has faced numerous brain surgeries in hopes to find where the seizures are originating from,” Barnett said. “Every time the doctors come back to tell him he has another upcoming surgery he looks at his mom and tells her ‘It’s OK. God has my back.’
“Blake’s story has truly inspired me and I hope I can be as strong as him one day. I want to ride across America not just for Blake, but for all kids and families in similar situations.”
Barnett, who is from Warrior, said he became aware of the Journey of Hope through his work with the fraternity. Pi Kappa Phi has raised more than $15 million for The Ability Experience and the annual Journey of Hope ride from the west coast to Washington, D.C., is one of the most grueling efforts the men make.
“We will ride 80 to 120 miles a day,” Barnett said. “There are three different routes. Some are longer, some more mountainous, and the southern route – the one I will take – is hotter,” he said.
To prepare, he has been cycling as much as he can. “I road the Bo Bikes Bama route,” he said. “That’s 61 miles, and it was pretty rough.”
He’s also juggling being a full-time student, a leader in the ROTC, fraternity president and his upcoming wedding this month. “The only thing I’m worried about? That my wife might kill me for being gone all those days.”
He’ll also be celebrating his 21st birthday on the trail “somewhere between Meridian, Mississippi, and Birmingham,” Barnett said.
Michael Bunn, the chapter advisor and Troy University alum, said the Journey of Hope is an important project. “We’ve had local members participate before and we’re proud Ben is doing it this year,” he said. “It’s an important project, and I hope people in the community will support his efforts.”