The 20-year-old Fitzgerald bought a cheap bike and started pedaling the Burke-Gilman Trail to and from work every day, ultimately sparking an interest in cycling.
At the same time, his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers happened to be riding their bikes across the country from Long Beach, California to Washington D.C., a trek called the Journey of Hope, as a way for the national fraternity to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities.
“I enjoyed the freedom that being on the bike brings,” Fitzgerald said. “I realized it would be my last opportunity to do something like (the Journey of Hope).”
Fitzgerald committed to the Journey of Hope last fall, and has been busy fundraising and training ever since. Journey of Hope is put on every year through The Ability Experience, Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropy.
“All of the funds go towards the Ability Experience, which helps raise awareness for kids with disabilities as well as gives back to them through grants and mentorship with members of Pi Kappa Phi,” Fitzgerald said. “Cycling and friendship visits are used as a vehicle to carry out the mission of The Ability Experience and give back to the community. The Journey of Hope is this on a large scale, going across the country cycling to these organizations and giving back to the kids with disabilities.”
Starting June 13, Fitzgerald and a team of around 30 cyclists will ride roughly 75 miles each day, with afternoon stops to do activities with individuals with disabilities across their route until they arrive in D.C. on Aug. 13.
After hearing about his fraternity brother’s experience on the ride — combined with his brief stint as a cycling commuter — Fitzgerald thought the summer after his sophomore year at UW would be the perfect time to cycle across the southern U.S.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” Fitzgerald said. “I realized I would never get the opportunity to do something like this again, so I decided to do it.”