A summer ride for awareness
In a patriotic sea of red, white and blue, the men of Pi Kappa Phi rode into Park City on Sunday as a part of the Push America philanthropy "Journey of Hope" to promote disability awareness.
In their 19th visit to the area, the fraternity-sponsored team of cyclists made a stop during their tour across America to make a donation to the National Ability Center and spend time with community children.
Push America is a charity run independently by the fraternity to raise money for disability awareness. Each summer, teams of cyclists from campuses across the country complete the "Journey of Hope" from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., stopping in towns to deliver $750 grants to local disability-related organizations and to spend time with disabled and able-bodied children. The various fraternity chapters also hold smaller fundraisers throughout the year.
According to on-site public relations coordinator and 2006 Furman University graduate, Towers Rice, the fraternity, which started the program in the 1970s, donates 86 percent of the funds they raise to programs for the disabled.
"Where most frats will give to other philanthropies, we have our own, so its more important to us," Rice said.
According to a Push America press release, the Journey of Hope is made up of three teams that total 71 members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The teams travels on three different routes, stop in 180 cities, cover 33 states and ride over 12,000 miles on bicycles. In order to be eligible for the ride, a fraternity brother must independently raise $5,000 for the charity, although Rice says many raise as much as $9,000.
Many of the young men join the fraternity just to be involved with the cause.
"It’s a huge part of being a Pi Kapp and sets us apart from the other groups," Rice said.
Josh Woodmansee said that he chose the fraternity at the University of Colorado, Boulder, so he participate in the summer ride as well as work at the chapter’s locally based Push America program that plans activities for disabled children every Friday.
"I just saw that Pi Kapp was different, because it wasn’t just a social fraternity. It’s a bunch of guys who care," Woodmansee said.
The Journey of Hope team rides for about 75 miles almost every day. Free days are spent making "friendship visits," where the men work with disabled children or educate able-bodied children about disability awareness. A dinner or other social event is usually held at the local disability-related organization, where the Push America team makes a donation.
In Park City, the Journey of Hope Team held a dinner at the NAC on Sunday and made a $750 contribution. They were also able to visit with many of the disabled riders in town for the NAC-sponsored Adaptive Cycle Festival. On Monday, they held a barbeque with the children in the Park City Recreation Day Camp and then presented a puppet show about disability awareness. The puppet show is the nationally used "Kids on the Block" program that features child-aged puppets in situations dealing with disabilities to teach kids about physical and mental limitations and acceptance. At the end of the show, there is a question and answer period, where the able-bodied children can further extend their understanding of disabilities.
"Guys take on the responsibility to learn the act and the kids have a good time," Rice said.
Woodmansee is a first-year-cyclist in the Journey of Hope. For the last two years, he worked heavily in the local Friday-night program and decided that this was the year he should try the ride. He got on a road bike for the first time ever after signing up for this year’s tour. He then proceeded to raise the money through a matching gift from his employer, Home Depot, friends and family and a fundraising pageant at his former high school in Fort Collins, Colo.
Despite growing up just hours away, Woodmansee had never been to Park City and plans to return in the ski season.
"It’s beautiful," Woodmansee said. "I definitely didn’t expect this. It’s the same [as Colorado], but different."
Not all of the team is riders. Other fraternity brothers may get involved by serving as crew chiefs or in administrative roles. Alumni are also welcome to get involved and participate for one day or the entire trip, donate housing or financially support the philanthropy.
"You get a greater base of support in fundraising, awareness and contacts in different cities," explained crew chief Justin Humphrey and University of North Florida alumnus.
According to Josh Smith, project manager and Georgia Tech alumnus, some of the alumni were either disabled when they in college or have become disabled since, making the mission of Push America that much more important and personal.
"It showcases the ability," Smith said.
There are over 200 chapters pf Pi Kappa Phi nationwide. Utah State University houses the only Utah chapter.
For more information about Push America and its programs, visit http://www.pushamerica.com.
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