“Through my experiences, I was able to see excitement, joy and happiness exists in everyone.”
Dallas Aasand (Iota Nu – Mississippi State University)
2013 & 2014 Pi Alpha
We recently connected with ‘13 and ’14 Pi Alpha, Dallas Aasand to discuss why he signed up for the 77 Society three years ago. He has been giving a recurring gift since March 2019.
Dallas recently stepped up to support the 2022 Journey of Hope team’s meal campaign, sponsoring a multiple meals on the road for the young men cycling across the country this summer. As a two-time crew member, he really knows the importance of keeping the team fed and moving safely along their way. He saw this as a great opportunity to give back in a personally meaningful way.
Dallas works in aviation and attributes his membership in Pi Kappa Phi with some tremendous blessings in his life. He knows that without a doubt, “I would have never truly understood what it means to put others above yourself if I had not gotten involved with The Ability Experience.”
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m Dallas Aasand. I was born in Vicksburg, MS and spent middle through high school in Flowood, MS (right outside of Jackson, MS).
I currently live outside of Dallas, Texas. I work for a major US airline based in Dallas. I’m currently single, but I have two wonderful dogs that I rescued (Winston and Louie). I enjoy the country life and anything aviation.
What Ability Experience summer event(s) have you participated in and the year?
I was a Crew Member on Journey of Hope South route in 2013 and 2014.
How has the pandemic impacted your day-to-day and interaction with other Pi Alphas and brothers?
It’s been more difficult to get together. I used to take trips to visit teammates, or they would come visit me. Hopefully soon we will be able to get that going again.
Anything else fun or interesting you’ve been up to that you’d like to share?
Like I said, I love aviation. My dad’s an aircraft mechanic so I caught the airplane bug early in life. I’m currently building my own airplane from a company that makes most of the parts and I put it together. So that takes a lot of my time.
What would you say has been your most meaningful experience with The Ability Experience? Past or present.
Both trips on Journey of Hope blow everything else out of the water. Those two summers were tough, but they teach you a lot about yourself and others. One major lesson I learned was I am capable of more than I ever imagined.
How have your experiences with The Ability Experience changed the way you view people with disabilities?
I would say my experiences haven’t changed my view but have shown me first-hand the abilities of everyone. We may not all be able to dance, fish, or play basketball the same way, but when you lose in wheelchair basketball 54-2 in two five-minute halves, you understand that everyone has abilities.
Also, through my experiences, I was able to see excitement, joy, and happiness exists in everyone.
What two things do you like most about The Ability Experience servant leadership programs and why?
I would say the best part is the ability to give back. People across the country wait all year for the one day the Journey of Hope comes to their town, and it’s their favorite day. Being able to hear their stories from past teams and create your own with them is the most rewarding part.
Secondly, the chance for the team members to grow. Very rarely is a group of college men on bicycles and in vans going across the country. There are setbacks, and not every day goes the way you want, but you learn from those days, and they prepare you for tomorrow and the future.
What has changed about yourself since you became a Pi Alpha?
Being on the crew is something that completely changed who I was.
My priority everyday was the safety and wellbeing of the cyclists and other crew. I had never had that much responsibility or such high stakes. People were trusting and depending on me, and that forces you to grow. I look back and credit part of who I am to those two summers. I do not know where else I would have gotten that experience.
Do you remember some of the people you’ve met while on your 2 summer treks across the country?
I’m horrible with names, so I apologize, but trust me, their faces stand out in my memory. At Camp ASCCA outside of Birmingham, Alabama, we were able to help throw a prom night dance for the campers on the last night of camp. And it was the most fun! I remember dancing for what seemed like hours, and the happiness and joy of the campers was indescribable. That night stands out the most, and I don’t know why, but I think it’s because I could clearly see the impact we were having.
Please share any specific success that your involvement with The Ability Experience helped you achieve, and how.
I like to think that The Ability Experience helped me be selected for my dream internship my final summer in college. They wanted someone who not only had an aviation background but had time in front of a camera. During my 2013 trip I was the team photographer and handled public relations in 2014. So, I was able to call on that experience. I got the internship, which led to a full-time job once I graduated. I can really see how my two summers on Journey of Hope helped catapult me to where I am today.
How do you think your involvement with The Ability Experience has benefited you or your community?
I’ve talked about my growth and the skills that have helped me in my professional career, so I think my benefit is obvious. But more importantly is the impact on the community.
Helping people experience new adventures is by far the most satisfying. In Jackson, Mississippi (my home stop on the South Route) we were fortunate to help people with disabilities into airplanes so they could fly, most of them for the first time ever! The airport we visited is very special to me, it was where I flew an airplane by myself for the first time. So, helping share my passion with people in my own community and the happiness it brought them is what made it my best memory – not to mention my family was there to experience it with me!
How would you recommend new members make the most of their Journey of Hope adventure?
Give this summer everything you have, and a super cliché saying that got used on our route (and I’m sure every route) is “don’t count the days, make the days count”.
You’re going to end up on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, looking west over the thousands of miles you just crossed, and more than likely, you’ll never have the chance to experience it again. I guarantee you at the end you do not want to look out to everyone there at Arrival and think back and say, “I wish I had done this, or that ”. Whether it’s on the bike or at a Friendship Visit, remember why you chose to sign up for this journey, and give it everything you have. Do it for the sponsors who open their homes, schools, or churches; the campers, participants, or residents you meet along the way; and the ones that are with you every day doing the same, your team.
Is there anything else you’d like the community to know about The Ability Experience or Pi Kappa Phi?
I think the most important thing to remember is not only the impact these two organizations have on the young men that are members, but on the countless people who benefit from the work and experiences all the programs, not just the summer events, are able to provide. I think it’s also important to remember that there’s more than just summer events.
A global threat like COVID-19 affects more than just the infected. A pandemic touches every person on the planet. What have you learned during this whole experience that you’d like to share with the rest of the Ability Experience family? Any words of encouragement for our students – or alumni – or our parents?
Just to stay strong. It’s been a crazy, wild, unpredictable two years, and in my opinion the most important thing we can do is to be there for each other and the ones we love. Times can be challenging, but it’s always easier with someone to help you though.
What motivates you give back as a 77 Society donor?
I give back to say thank you to an organization that has given me so much. Over two summers I grew so much and was able to meet amazing people along the way, and live experiences I had never dreamed of. If I can help one person experience only half of what I did, then it is all worth it.
When I donate, I think of the people I met along the way and the happiness they experience when Journey of Hope rolls into their town. I want to help that happiness and joy in their life continue, so the best way I can do that is give back to the organization!
What do you think is the single best reason a Pi Alpha should give back right now?
Those two summers were the best time in my life, and I’m sure most Pi Alpha’s would agree that it ranks towards the top. So, why would we not ensure that these programs are around forever? Not only for our future Pi Kappa Phi brothers, but more importantly the communities and people we visit.