Monday, August 08, 2011

Pi Kappa Phi Push America Great Greek Project

Cyclists raise funds, awareness for local organization

LACIE PIERSON

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON -- Nearly 100 cyclists riding 75 miles a day for nine weeks is enough to catch anyone's attention, but one national fraternity has been taking attention and turning it toward local causes throughout America.

Members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity have taken the Journey of Hope every year since its inception in 1988 when one fraternity member cycled across the country. Since then, the event has become an event that Pi Kappa Phi members throughout the nation participate in to raise funds and awareness for people with disabilities and organizations that help them.

The cyclists were welcomed to the Mountain State Center for Independent Living in downtown Huntington by the center's employees and a hearty meal Wednesday evening.

Cathy Hutchison is a former manager for the center, and she was instrumental in making Huntington a regular stop on the Journey of Hope nine years ago.

"They are always an awesome group of young men, and they just get better each year," Hutchison said. "We work with all people will all kinds of disabilities -- regardless of income. These boys help us in so many ways. I can't even find the words to explain the importance of what they're doing to help us."

Journey of Hope is a program of Push America, the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi. Marshall University's Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi won an award for its philanthropy through Push America last year.

The funding raised from the 2010 journey helped the Mountain State Center in Huntington purchase equipment for its kitchen, which is where employees and volunteers prepared meals for the cyclists this week.

This year, the cyclists are expected to raise $560,000 nationwide by the time they complete their journey on Saturday, Aug. 13 in Washington, D.C. The 28-man team that arrived in Huntington began that journey in Seattle while two other teams began in San Francisco.

Pedaling more than 2,700 miles sounds like a daunting task, but Axel Holm, a student at Iowa State University said members often join the fraternity with the journey in mind.

"When I looked at it, I thought it seemed like a big task," Holm said. "But, then I thought I could push and go for it or I could stay back and regret not trying it."

Holm said the goal of the journey, from the participants' perspective, is to focus on the ability of a person, and not the disability.

"A lot of times when people see other people who have disabilities, that's all they see," Holm said. "Really though, it's not that they can't function. They're still people, and they just have to do things a little
differently. It's about seeing the person."

For more information about the Mountain State Center for Independent Living, visit www.mtstcil.org, and for more information about the Journey of Hope, visit www.pushamerica.org.