CSU Pi Kappa Phi members bike across country in support of those with disabilities

Samantha Ye

people biking or tricycling
Journey of Hope riders participate in a friendship visit in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

Biking 4,370 miles across the country may take an entire summer, but when it’s to help those with disabilities, fraternity brothers of Colorado State University and dozens of other college men are willing to do exactly that.

The Journey of Hope is an annual cycling trip designed to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities, as well as instill a passion for service in its participants, according to the organizer’s website, The Ability Experience, a non-profit organization initiated by the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi.

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Teams bike across the country, stopping for various friendship visits along the way with local organizations which help those with disabilities.

JOH teams split along three routes: North, South and TransAmerica. From June 1 to Aug. 11, teams are biking from their respective locations to the front of the United States Capitol building in Washington D.C.

South Route

Three CSU finance majors, Will Parker, Ian Brannigan and Nick Meyer, are riding the South Route trip, starting in Long Beach, California and cutting through some of the hottest states in the country such as Arizona and Alabama.

The many friendship visits the group has had on the trip and the many more they have planned in the last week of their ride has resulted in a range of diverse interactions. Activities have ranged from barbeques to kickball to kayaking.

For Brannigan and Meyer, the visit which stood out most to them was with the Moving Mavs, a wheelchair basketball team for the University of Texas at Arlington.

A large percentage of the participants and players were disabled veterans, said Brannigan, a veteran himself.

“I’ve seen friends lose limbs and appendages and…I’ve seen the psychological effects it has on them,” Brannigan said. “So, it was cool to see sort of the other side and the (life after) those amputations, but still see them finding camaraderie and solace in these sports.”

Meyer said wheelchair basketball seemed to light a fire within the players.

“They really gave their life to this country, and wheelchair basketball just helped them get their life back,” Meyer said. “It was very inspiring. It was great to see someone who’s given it all to us prosper again.”

Despite the challenges of biking roughly 80 miles a day, 3,755 miles in total, all three men described the journey as worthwhile and fulfilling a greater good for the community.

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“At the end of the day, you remember who you’re cycling for,” Parker said. “You remember that other people in this world aren’t as lucky and as fortunate as you, so you keep going.”

For Parker, his family influenced his decision to join the trip. Not only does he have a cousin with physical disabilities, his parents had always raised him to do something bigger than himself, Parker said.

“I just wanted to help out the community and really show that CSU fraternity life isn’t what it is–it’s more about who we are: helping the community,” Parker said.

For Meyer, as a senior with one summer left, it was a choice between getting a job or internship or doing something special.

“It really struck me like, ‘Let’s go out there and do something’; instead of sitting at home and benefitting myself, I could benefit others,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the experience has been great,  especially working with other fraternity men who are committed to the same goals he is.

Brannigan described the ride as a double positive: getting to ride your bike across the country while doing good along the way.

“I think this trip is very selfless in the sense it’s not for you; it’s for these centers we’re reaching out to and meeting along the way and raising that support and awareness for people who can’t do something like this,” Brannigan said.

After two months of biking the men look forward to the last 500 miles of their trip and completing the goal they set their minds to months ago.

“Upon crossing the finish line, (I want to) reflect upon all the change and growth that’s occured within the team and personally, for sure,” Brannigan said.

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  • Journey of Hope riders participate in a friendship visit in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

  • Journey of Hope riders participate in a friendship visit in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

  • Journey of Hope riders participate in a friendship visit in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

  • In Colorado Springs, Journey of Hope riders bike in paceline formation, in order to conserve energy and travel faster by riding in the draft of the riders in front. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

  • Journey of Hope riders pose for a group photo in Colorado Springs. (Photo courtesy of Sean Szymczak)

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TransAmerica Route

CSU alumnus Tyler Lampard is part of the TransAmerica team, starting in Seattle and cutting through over a dozen states, including Colorado. He and his team have biked an average of 75-80 miles per day, but have gone as far as 120 miles in one day.

On top of the physical exertion, team members must also bike through unfavorable weather, be it heat, rain or cold (not in lightning or dangerous roads, however). Lampard recalled the two weeks in Montana where it rained almost every day, completed with high winds.

On a brighter side, the team members have each other to chat with, even sing the Pokemon theme song with, during the ride, according to their team journal.

Before the trip begins, team members go through monthly video chats with coaches to train and prepare for the ride. Although Lampard also had prior experience in biking, JOH is an option for even those without any experience.

In addition to physical training, all riders must also raise at least $5,500 to go on the trip, while crew members must raise $2,500. A portion goes toward trip supplies and planning, but the money also funds grants which are given to various organizations helping support those with disabilities.

JOH has raised over half a million dollars already, nearing their $650,000 goal.

The teams are able to meet some of the recipients of the grants during friendship dinners as they stop in different cities.

On July 1, they stopped in Fort Collins for a friendship visit with the City of Fort Collins Adaptive Recreation Opportunities, where they played wheelchair rugby and learned about the ARO program.

“It gave us good motivation on the people we can impact on this trip,” Lampard said.

Lampard said he has worked with people with disabilities ever since high school, and the CSU chapter of PKP encourages members to do so, hosting and planning local events as a fraternity. The chapter strongly supports members going on JOH.

All JOH participants are PKP members, making the team a vital part of the experience.

Although the trip has not come without its frustrations, it is still a really fun time as riders learn and grow together as friends, Lampard said.

“We’ve had our rough points but we’ve kind of smoothed them out along the way, and each day kind of gets a little bit easier,” Lampard said. “The (biking) has been hard, but the friendship has been awesome.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Nick Meyer’s name. This article has been updated to reflect this correction.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story did not include the Colorado State University students participating in the Journey of Hope South Route. The story has been updated to include both routes of the Journey of Hope.