For many people, it’s easy to be consumed by negativity and fear in uncertainty as they adapt to new circumstances presented by COVID-19. For some, they see adversity as an opportunity to make an impact when it is needed most.
For Andre Arman, a four-time Pi Alpha who has been a member of the Gear Up Florida team in four of the last five years, he made the choice to support The Ability Experience as it continues to innovate new ways to support people with disabilities amidst a global pandemic.
“My experiences with The Ability Experience and as a Pi Alpha have brought me peace and happiness,” Arman said. “It’s also provided me with 3 of my best friends. It’s clear what the organization has done for me, especially in my times of need, it’s time that I pay it forward and continue to do whatever it is that I can, whether that be financially or in any other way possible, and I would encourage other Pi Alphas to reach out and inquire about how they can help as well.”
Just a few weeks ago, Arman chose to make a recurring monthly gift to The Ability Experience and became a member of the 77 Society.
“There are opportunities on the horizon to participate in the virtual events that The Ability Experience is embracing as we navigate through these challenging times,” Arman said. “I encourage them to reach out and to become engaged, to see how they can give the gift of their time to help sustain and grow the mission of The Ability Experience as we evolve.”
Arman believes that making a recurring gift to The Ability Experience is important because it allows the organization to explore and implement new ideas year after year, and that could not be more evident than during a time when creating accessible virtual experiences is more important than ever.
“I have a unique advantage because I’ve witnessed some of these things being installed as part of my involvement with the teams over the past few years,” Arman said. “These ideas provide for a better and safer experience for our brothers and for the individuals we support. It’s important that we continue to empower the organization to invest in the future of our events, make our mission more successful.”
As a recurring Gear Up Florida team member and as a donor, Arman has continued to connect with The Ability Experience as a Pi Kappa Phi alumnus and the people it serves.
“I spent a long time trying to figure out who I was, which resulted in unhappiness, despite some of the successes that were happening around me,” Arman said. “For a long time, no matter what I did, it just never seemed to be good enough. When I completed GUF in 2015, it added fulfillment to my life. I realized that helping people was the thing that made me happy the most, and it keeps me coming back each year.”
On that 2015 trip, he found a way that he could make an individual commitment to the values of The Ability Experience during a visit to the MacDonald Training Center, an organization that serves adults with disabilities with vocational and residential support.
“There’s an artist by the name of Omoro, who is a participant at the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa Florida is. Omoro had been described as a difficult person to work with, until one day when he was given the opportunity to paint at one of the Center’s many offered programs. This gave him the opportunity to express himself in a way that made him feel heard, and since then, he’s become one of the Center’s longstanding artists.”
Arman’s experience made him realize that there are many people in our world today that are struggling to express themselves, and he wondered what others in society are missing out on by not doing whatever they can to enable all people to do so,”
“I own one of Omoro’s paintings and I keep it close to remind me that this is a goal in my life. I still hope to get a chance to meet Omoro one day, I have an entire blog article that I wrote about it.”
Anytime that Arman has gotten to participate in a friendship or wear a cycling kit representing The Ability Experience, it has been meaningful.
“I can’t put it into words the feeling exactly – but I think one of my favorite quotes sums it up,” Arman said. “‘There are many things in my life that I wish were different, but if I can be a hero for someone else, then it makes my life worth living.’”
Arman looks forward to being able to do this again soon, but as The Ability Experience continues to adapt to unexpected circumstances, he continues to show his support and encourages his fellow Pi Alphas to do the same by participating in the upcoming Virtual Ability Week.
“I view these virtual events as opening a new set of opportunities which in time will complement, not replace, our team trips,” Arman said. “We’ve already begun piloting a virtual meetup with a group of Pi Alphas that are geographically located. We’ve begun looking at free and open technology which can enable most people to interact with each other.
“I’m looking forward to being back on the Gear Up Florida team when that time comes, but until then we should take the time to focus our attention and help grow this capability which in the long run will enable participation from a broader group of brothers as well as involvement with the individuals themselves who wish to ‘ride with us.’”