Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity men bike cross-country

“I joined Pi Kappa Phi my freshman year,” said the University of Idaho junior. “I heard about the events that happen and watched people from my fraternity go and do it and then hear about their incredible experiences. I didn’t want to miss this.”

Journey of Hope is the transAmerica bike trek put on by The Ability Experience, Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropy, to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities. The bike trek has three different route options and is one of many ways fraternity members from across the country can contribute to The Ability Experience.

As the 29 cyclists and support crew travel across the country,they stop for “friendship visits,” where they hang out withparticipants of organizations that help people with disabilities. “Just about every night we go and interact with a sponsor or organization that helps people with disabilities,”Kennedy said. “They usually spend the day eating lunch and interacting with their friends and most of the time it’s just them and their caretakers. So we’ll go in and put all of our attention to the people that are there and make relationships.” 

The team had a layover day in Spokane Tuesday, and spent it with The Arc of Spokane. Kennedy met a man named Frank who told him all about his brother and his dog. He also met a man named Ricky. The two ended up talking for two hours.

“We just bonded and had a really great time,” Kennedy said. “Everything we do is about servicing people with disabilities and making them feel accepted and feel like they’re not different, because they aren’t.” Every year, Journey of Hope raises more than $650,000. Cyclists have to raise $5,500 to participate and members of the support crew have to raise $2,500. Kennedy said he started raising money in May. His family in Coeur d’Alene and a lot of his extended family helped him reach his $2,500 goal.

Another fundraising tactic Kennedy used was to offer to anyone who donated more than a certain amount a 45 second video of himself getting a pie in the face. One video featured what looked like Star Wars characters having a “Force fight” and at the end he got pied. In another one, the camera is circling him as he is playing the “Guitar Hero” video game while his younger siblings are throwing pies at him. The team will continue fundraising during their journey and continue to contact family and friends for support. With almost $550,000, the group is on track to raising its goal of more than half a million dollars.

The team has collected a lot of sponsors who contribute by giving them a place to sleep or providing lunches for the team. The team started in Seattle June 8. They are averaging 80 miles a day to cover the 4,345 miles to Washington, D.C. Some days the team will travel a relaxed 35 miles and the longest day will be 135 miles.

“We traveled 125 miles over Mt. Rainier on our second day,” said the team’s public relations crew member, Kevin Cohn. “It was some good practice for them.” Wednesday’s 35 miles was short, and so will be Friday’s distance to Sandpoint. But Saturday, the team will haul 105 miles all the way to Thompson Falls, Mont. 

Team members’ families often find the team somewhere on the journey. Kennedy’s family got to see him Tuesday when he was in Spokane. Most families will also meet the team in Washington, D.C., where they will finish their journey Aug. 13.

“It’s a really cool event when everyone rolls in and their families are there to cheer them on and they stop right on the Capitol lawn,” Cohn said.

To support the Pi Kappa Phi Journey of Hope team, visit abilityexperience.org.