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There are few people who can make the claim that they have traveled from one coast to the other in the United States with only a bicycle, but for the members of Pi Kappa Phi this feat of physical endurance is something that they have come to master. A tradition that was started in 1977 by Bruce Rodgers and Jim Karlovic has grown in size and ambition over the years to become what it is known as today: the Ability Experience. This event supports people with disabilities through community events, advocacy presentations and grant support.
The Ability Experience will take a group known as The Journey of Hope TransAmerica, consisting of Pi Kappa Phi members, across the country to support the disabled. The team consists of 23 cyclists and six crew members who have been biking 75 miles a day so that they can travel from their origin in San Francisco to Washington D.C. by August 10. Upon reaching Washington, they will have traveled a total of 4370 miles. The cyclists and their family members will meet at the steps of the Capitol to attend a short speech commemorating their efforts before a celebration is thrown for the cyclists.
The Ability Experience focuses not only on aiding the disabled, but also with developing the members of Pi Kappa Phi into servant leaders. Members from all over the country participate in the cycling event and travel along one of three different routes that start in either San Francisco, Seattle or Santa Barbara and end in the capital. Each participating cyclist works to provide those with disabilities with experiences that will strengthen their lives as they complete their journey. Also, each Pi Kappa Phi member commits to raising $6,000 to support the Ability Experience’s goal of providing 10,000 shared experiences across the country. Combined with corporate sponsorship, the 2019 Journey of Hope will raise more than $750,000 for people with disabilities around the nation.
This coming Sunday, July 14, the cyclists will be visiting Topeka for a two-day stay after their 70 mile trip from Emporia. They will be meeting and having lunch with the wonderful people involved with the Kansas Neurological Institute. Mason Heavener, a spokesperson for The Ability Experience, said that the cyclists enjoy the work they’re doing and the lives their impacting.
“The whole point of The Ability Experience is to really make a difference in their lives. It’s about getting rid of the negative stigmas around disabilities,” Heavener said. “This is about sharing experiences between us and them.”
The members of Pi Kappa Phi are great examples of what true leadership looks like as they complete their arduous journey across the nation, sharing their experiences with everyone they come in contact with. Their attention to those who are often neglected in our communities shows that they are each dedicated to what they do and will continue to spread their message of hope through to the end of summer.
Edited by Adam White and Abbie Barth