Cyclists travel across the nation for people with disabilities

Pioneer Photo/John Gutekunst

They’re members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, and they’re cycling across the nation as part of the 2016 Journey of Hope.

Their goals are to raise funding for, and awareness of, people with disabilities. They made two stops June 26 in the Parker area, with lunch at the Buckskin Fire Station and dinner at the Parker Community/Senior Center, where they stayed overnight.

The Journey of Hope is a major project of The Ability Experience, the charitable organization of Pi Kappa Phi. The organization was known as Push America until 2014. The name was changed as a better reflection of what they are all about.

There are three teams making the trip across America. They start in Long Beach, Calif., San Francisco and Seattle. All three teams are scheduled to reach Washington, D.C., by Aug. 13. There are more than 100 riders and crew members. To qualify for the team, each rider must raise at least $5,500. Each crew member must raise $2,300. The three teams will cover a total of 32 states and 12,000 miles of biking. Each of the riders will average 75 miles per day.

The team that visited Parker was the Southern Team. They started in Long Beach, Calif., June 17. The spokesperson for the team, Dean Algernon, said their trip has taken them through Barstow, Calif., Pahrump, Nev., Las Vegas and Lake Havasu City. Stops after Parker include Wickenburg, Tempe, Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond, Va. They’ll head through the Carolinas and Virginia to Washington.

The Northern Team left San Francisco June 11. Their route will take them through Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. The Trans-America team, which follows the course of the original Journey of Hope, left Seattle June 8. Their route will take them through Spokane, West Yellowstone in Montana, Denver, Wichita, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Roanoke, Va.

Along the way, the teams will have many “friendship visits,” where they will meet, spend time with, and perform service projects for people with disabilities. Several riders said these visits always make an impression on them.

Algernon said the Southern Team has 32 members, with 24 cyclists and eight crew members. They have managed to raise $450,000 so far, and he added they should reach their goal of $700,000.

Algernon is a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. His major is information technology. He said they have a good crew of cyclists on their team. He added the crew members have been “phenomenal.”

“They’re all well-trained,” he said. “We have a really good team dynamic. It’s crazy how we all meld together. It works like a well-oiled machine.”

Algernon said the friendship visits are the best part of the journey. One of the most memorable so far was the visit to Wet ‘n Wild in Las Vegas. He said the clients they met were between the ages of 5 and 21, and they were all full of energy. One of the events they participated in was a game of wheelchair basketball.

“We like to say there’s no disability,” he said. “Just do things differently. They just need the opportunity.”

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