The Journey of Hope, a 3,800-mile cross-country bike ride sponsored by Push America and the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, features 26 cyclists and nine crew members riding across the country to raise awareness and money for people with disabilities.
But the ride, which made a stop in Park City on Sunday and Monday, also helps the cyclists see the world in a different way.
"It's opened up my eyes to a whole new horizon," Jeremy Osborne said. "Before college, if I had seen someone with disabilities, I'd just shrug my shoulders and not pay much attention."
Now Osborne, a 21-year-old student at Central Michigan, sees things differently.
"We educate ourselves and we learn so much ourselves," he said. "It's an amazing experience both ways."
The group stopped at the National Ability Center on Monday afternoon to interact with some disabled cyclists and test out some of the hand bikes and other equipment the center has to offer.
Michael Jones, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said he loves interacting with disabled athletes. He said that in addition to brightening their days, he is always happier after meeting new people.
"One thing this ride has done is push me to increase my personal awareness," he said. "These people should be defined by their abilities, not what they may lack in ability."
With a minimum fundraising requirement of $5,500 per rider, Osborne said this group, which started in San Francisco and will end in Washington, D.
There are two other Journey of Hope rides, one that starts in Seattle and one that starts in Long Beach, Calif. Osborne estimated that the three groups would raise about $650,000 total.
Osborne, who was a member of the support crew last year, said he couldn't pass up the chance to be a rider this year.
"The day after we reached D.C. last year, I signed up again," he said. "I graduate from college in a year, so this is the last time I'll ever be able to do anything like this."
Jones, who starts law school at George Washington University in the fall, echoed Osborne's sentiments.
"In college, a lot of people have your typical government internships or internships that might help your career," he said. "Between my undergraduate and graduate law school, I just wanted to do something crazy that wasn't about me and that was about helping other people."
Though Jones is a member of the Annapolis Bike Club in Maryland, he said he's never done anything as strenuous as Journey of Hope before.
"It's a whole other level," he said, adding that the group routinely rides 500 miles per week.
Osborne said the first 20 days of the ride have been very challenging.
"Being from Michigan, it's relatively flat there," he said. "Our first 20 days now have been very hilly. Our fourth day into the trip, we did Jackson to Lake Tahoe (Calif.) over the Carson Pass and Luther Pass. It's 93 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing; I was on the saddle for about 12 hours."
But both Osborne and Jones say the grueling ride and nights spent on gym floors, in church basements and in an occasional hotel are definitely worth it.
"I couldn't say no to traveling across the country to help people with disabilities," Osborne said.
"The ability to bridge the gap between people with disabilities and ourselves it's awesome," Jones added. "It's important to me because it's a cause that directly helps people who might not be able to help themselves."