Pi Alpha Spotlight: Larry and Matthew Keller

Larry and Matthew Keller are brothers and Pi Alphas. They both attended Kansas State University and are members of Pi Kappa Phi’s Delta Chi Chapter. They’re Pi Kapp legends. 

Recently we had the chance to capture their story from their cycling days with Journey of Hope to what they’re both up to now in the last year.  

Here is what the Keller brothers had to share during their interview with us.  

Matthew’s first Ability Experience event was a Give a Push Weekend back in 1999. From there he cycled on Journey of Hope in 2000 and did other service events through his chapter. He ran two marathons as fundraisers for The Ability Experience before our Challenge Events were even in existence! 

JOH 2000 Friendship Visit – Left to right: Shane Volney, Matthew Keller, Alex Sawyer.

Matthew resides in Paris, France with his wife, Carla and their 19-month-old son. They relocated there approximately 2 weeks before the pandemic. He is a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and became the Country Attaché of the Drug Enforcement Administration to the US Embassy at the beginning of the pandemic. 

When asked about what has changed the most for him in the past year, this is what Matthew shared, “I moved across the Atlantic and took up residence in Paris while also beginning a new position with the DEA. My wife and I stay busy trying to raise a son. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag with the pandemic, but overall, the chance to spend more time with my family, while also continuing to progress in my career, has been amazing.” 

His career has provided him the opportunity to do meaningful work, while visiting over 37 countries.  

Matthew and Larry’s heart for service was inspired by their parents. Matthew shared that, “My parents were always examples of leadership and volunteering to benefit others. My father was heavily involved with Goodwill and Envision Industries. My mother was involved with The Lord’s Diner, Guadalupe Clinic and Hospice Care. My parents instilled the principles of volunteering, giving of one’s time, talents and treasure, into each of their five children.”

Larry and Matthew in 1984 training for their future JOH endeavors at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit.

Following his parents’ gracious example, this is how he describes his personal experiences with The Ability Experience, “I have been able to experience first-hand the smiles on faces, the effect of donations made, and dollars raised and a true chance to put your talents to work. Because of this “hands-on” approach, I have learned to foster and celebrate the abilities of all, to see the real value in empathy without experiencing pity and I’m now a more outgoing individual.” 

“My time on JOH likely made me feel like an actual athlete, so over the years, it has literally kept me healthier as I have tried to recapture my youth through numerous endurance events.” 

When asked about how his life has changed since he signed on for Journey of Hope over 21 years ago, and who he wanted to thank for their support, he shared this: 

“My brother changed during his first JOH in 1994. However, I was unaware and that single experience, forged over 70+ days on the road, has shaped me to the person I am today. Thank you to those individuals and others at Push America (at the time) for molding me into the man I am today. In addition, thank you to my brother Larry, for being the guinea pig for my family… it was much easier to approach my parents for that trip, when my parents had already seen the change that trip made in him.” 

The Ability Experience loves it when brothers carry on the tradition of participating in a team event, and this is what makes the Keller brother legends for us and their chapter brothers at Delta Chi.  

Larry Keller cycled on Journey of Hope in 1994 and then again in 2003. Currently he is an independent financial advisor for his own company, Keller Investments. He lives in Thousand Oaks, California with his wife Natalie and their three daughters.  

Larry served on the board for the Special Olympics for many years. He and Natalie met as volunteers and board members of Special Olympics Kansas, and he says he owes that all to The Ability Experience.  

The pandemic has forced us all to slow down, and for Larry this meant reconnecting with his fellow Pi Alphas and chapter brothers over the phone and on Zoom. Some he hadn’t talked to or seen in over a decade. Larry spoke to how special that was for him, “It was a nice reminder that those bonds and connections last even without constant contact and nurturing. There is something special about those types of relationships.” 

The pandemic felt a lot like the 1993 fantasy comedy film, Groundhog Day to Larry.  

He shared that everyone in his household was cranking away doing their best just to stay safe and sane. Yet through it all, they were presented with a great opportunity. As a family with two working parents and three active children, they were forced to slow down. No late meetings, no practices, no need to run from one activity to the next. This gave them the opportunity to really reconnect with one another again. When asked about what he’s learning during this whole experience that he’d like to share with the rest of The Ability Experience family, he said “If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the past year, it’s the need we all have, to be connected to something or someone. The value of the fraternity and The Ability Experience has never been greater. Servant leadership has never been more important.” 

The 2003 Journey of Hope TransAmerica route. Larry standing 4th from the right.

Larry used to be a Leadership Consultant back in the day, and he said that he was often asked by chapter members, “What is the best chapter you have ever seen?” and he said that his answer was always the same. Journey of Hope and Gear Up Florida. “No team is ever perfect,” Larry said, “but being able to bring together a bunch of strangers and get them to accomplish the loftiest of goals in a very short period is just mind boggling and yet they pull it off, again, and again, and again, summer after summer.  By the end of the event, guys that have known each other for literally weeks, turn into best men, and godfathers of future children. When I step back and try to figure out the secret sauce, the one thing I always come back to is how much the team events focus outward – what can we do today, to serve others? Servant leadership is the secret sauce.”. 

And he’s right. Servant leadership is the secret sauce. 

Journey of Hope was the defining moment of Larry’s college days. He learned on his trek across the country in 1994 that everyone we encounter makes an imprint on our lives, and shared, “Some may last longer than others and some might be more consequential, but they all make a mark. When I think of my time with The Ability Experience and all the special people I’ve gotten to know over the years, I am just overcome with a feeling of joy. Pure joy.”. 

The need is so great now to connect with people with disabilities who are hurting and alone, and Larry and Matthew have both done just that in the last year, reaching out to The Ability Experience to see where their support is needed and acting fast.  

It was wonderful to get to chat with the Keller brothers and learn more about their history with The Ability Experience as brothers and as men. We appreciate them sharing how their lives have been impacted by being involved in the mission, and their other volunteer time. As Matthew shared so poignantly, 

“We all have different ‘stuff’ going on and it’s important to measure our words and actions, be kind to others and reach out to make sure people are doing well. A small gesture such as a call, a text message or even a handwritten note, can make a world’s difference to someone who is struggling emotionally, physically, or psychologically.”. 

Thank you, Keller brothers, for that reminder. To donate, please visit our support page here.