Fifty-eight fraternity brothers on bicycles rode into town Thursday, stopping on their way across the country to do a puppet show about people with disabilities.
Relaxing at the Boys & Girls Club before the show, Pi Kappa Phi riders and support crew played with kids - tossing balls, eating hot dogs, and chatting on the grass.
"I think the travel is pretty amazing because they go so far," said club member Austin Bonner, 11. "I can't really ride a bike very long without getting extremely tired because I pump hard so I can go fast."
The Journey of Hope team, riding across America for the 17th year, averages 75 miles a day for 64 days. After a 90-mile climb from Jackson, Calif., to Kirkwood on Wednesday, rider Will Green described Thursday's 30-mile downhill into Nevada as "a nice little cool down."
"(Wednesday's) climb was pretty intense," said the George Washington University political science student. "I didn't know there were mountains that went up for 90 miles. It was kind of a rite of passage, I think."
Many of the riders - from 33 different universities across the nation - have been training since January.
"None of us are cyclists; some of us aren't even athletic," said Patrick Ortiz of the University of Houston. "We just came together as Pi Kappas because it's a great cause and it kind of breaks the stereotype of what fraternities are."
The annual ride is organized by Push America, the fraternity's national philanthropy organization.
"Pi Kappa Phi is the only collegiate fraternity to start and maintain their own national philanthropy," said this year's project manager, University of Kansas student David Buchanan.
Each rider raises $5,000 before the ride. That, coupled with corporate sponsorships, amounts to about $400,000 each year.
"We've raised over $390,000 so far this year, but we hope to cap out at $400,000," said Buchanan.
Journey of Hope organizers distribute funds to groups to improve the lives of people with disabilities, though no money is scheduled to be given out in Carson City.
About $1,500 has been given over the last three years to United Cerebral Palsy in Reno, said crew member Basil Lyberg.
Another puppet show is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada.
The Carson Nugget Casino will provide lunch.
"They've been a sponsor for probably the past 17 years," Lyberg said.
Political science student and fraternity brother Darris Means from Elon University in North Carolina said he joined the project because it's a good cause.
"I wanted to dedicate myself to service," he said. "And I strongly believe in raising awareness about people with disabilities. I think our society often forgets them."
The cyclists have made a lasting impact on the members of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada, according to staff member Jessica Marable.
"The kids totally love it when they come here," she said. "They've pretty much made a name for themselves here. We just say, 'Bikers are coming,' and they know exactly what we're talking about."
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.