Every year in mid-June, a group of college-aged bicyclists pedal their way across the United States raising money and awareness for those with disabilities.
Although each summer presents a new group of riders representing the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, their focus is to visit communities across the United States as part of Journey of Hope.
About 20 cyclists representing different Pi Kappa Phi chapters began their own journey into Nevada on Friday, stopping for the day and attending a function sponsored by the Governor’s Council of Developmental Disabilities that night at Western Nevada College. On Saturday, the cyclists prepared for a short 65-mile trip from Carson City to Fallon, arriving in the city shortly after 11:30 a.m.
Crew chief Troy Stricken said he was excited to begin this year’s Journey of Hope North team almost 10 days ago in San Francisco. Every day the bicyclists average 75 miles each day although some days may be shorter than that or in the case of the trip from Fallon to Austin, the team traveled 110 miles across U.S. Highway 50, dubbed “The Loneliest Highway”.
“The trip is going well,” Stricken said after the team arrived at the Boys and Girls Club in Carson City. “We went from San Francisco to Napa and then Jackson. We did a lot of climbing right at the beginning.”
Stricken said he was impressed when the Jackson police escorted the bicyclists to the Arc, an organization that supports and provides services to people with developmental disabilities in Amador and Calaveras counties.
Once the riders left the Mother Lode country of California, they began their assault on the Sierra. Stricken said the team had a good ride Friday coming down Kingsbury Grade from Lake Tahoe to Genoa and then north of Carson City.
Jacob Jendo of Chicago attends the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and has belonged to Pi Kappa Phi for three years. This is his first year cycling with the Journey of Hope. Jendo said a fraternity brother who participated in this program several years ago was his inspiration to ride this year.
“The camaraderie is perfect, and it’s an awesome experience,” he said.
Jendo, who is majoring in economics and political science, said he received advice from his friend. Once the riders cross the Sierra, then the journey becomes easier; participants will ride through some very remote locations, and the weather will be hot and they will see flat roads for many miles at a time.
Cameron Kinney joins a list of other riders from the University of Southern Mississippi who have previously made the journey across Nevada.
“They said it was an experience like no other,” he said, adding he trained on flat terrain before setting out on the journey.
This isn’t the first trip to the West for Kinney, who grew up in Mobile, Ala. Five years ago, the marketing major traveled to California, and he said his family has spent time in Colorado on the ski slopes.
Carl Heintz, store administrator for three locations including Fallon, said the annual gathering with the bicyclists always produces a good time.
“We always have fun,” Heintz said of the potluck dinner that was attended by about 100 people including the Pi Kapps.
The Northern Nevada Human Services doing business as Blue Sky Thrift Store, has hosted the riders since 2012. Heintz said the event had dancing, karaoke and a raffle.
“The Fernley and Fallon businesses were very generous. We had 46 raffle prizes compared to 30 last year.”
Heintz said local merchants also donated food such as meat and pizza.
The Journey of Hope is a program of The Ability Experience, the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, which raises funds and awareness for people with mental and physical disabilities. According to The Ability Experience, each rider raises at least $5,500 on behalf of people with disabilities. Combined with their individual efforts, with corporate sponsorships and the Journey of Hope, the teams this summer will raise more than a half million dollars for people with disabilities.
The different teams will end their journey later this summer in Washington, D.C. By the time they finish their trip, the three teams will ride through 32 states, cycling over 12,000 miles combined.