TAMPA — The idea of cycling 3,705 miles from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., might sound like a pipe dream. But for two University of South Florida students, that dream is about to become reality.
On Monday, two members of Pi Kappa Phi's USF chapter will begin the grueling cross country bike ride as part of the philanthropic Journey of Hope. Fraternity brothers Andrew Coet and Samuel Raduns are both required to raise a minimum of $5,500, all of which will go toward supporting people with disabilities or raising awareness on their behalf.
Journey of Hope is an annual event staged by Pi Kappa Phi and Push America, a nonprofit organization the fraternity founded in 1977. Every Journey of Hope participant is a member of a Pi Kappa Phi chapter around the United States, and each participant is required to raise his own funds.
"Both of our riders have gone about it in their own way," USF Pi Kappa Phi chapter president Justin Lengyel said. "Andy did some fundraising through church, they've both sold T-shirts, and as brothers, they can always hit us up for spare change to help out."
"I've gone to some local businesses and networked through my family for donations," Raduns said. "I tell them what we're about, and what the money will be used for. With the economy the way it is some people say no, and I don't take it too hard. I just thank them for their time, and keep moving forward."
This will be Radun's second time riding in the Journey of Hope.
Raduns and Coet will be part of a group of 72 Pi Kappa Phi cyclists.
The group will be split into three teams, each with its own route. The Northern route starts in San Francisco, the TransAmerica route leaves from Seattle, and Raduns' and Coet's Southern route will begin in Los Angeles.
The three teams are scheduled to rendezvous in Washington on Aug. 2.
The cyclists will ride an average of 75 miles a day, with stops along the way to participate in activities that support or reach out to local people with disabilities. Stops could involve anything from wheelchair basketball to puppet shows that teach children life lessons.
After the day's events, volunteer organizations will welcome riders, who will sleep in the basements of churches, in hotels or on gymnasium floors. If beds are unavailable, riders will use an air mattress carried with them.
Both cyclists have trained hard for this event.
"Riders are required to train a minimum of 1,000 miles before the event takes place," Coet said. "It ensures that we can comfortably cycle 40 to 100 miles a day. I've been training for a year and a half so I will be ready for the journey."
A lot can happen on a nationwide cycling adventure, and despite all of the training that the team members go through, accidents happen. To support the cyclists, check points are set up every 5 to 10 miles along the routes, manned by Pi Kappa Phi brothers and alumni. Trained crews will support the cyclists when they're in need.
While Journey of Hope benefits the people with disabilities that Push America and its parent fraternity interact with during the event, it is also an important learning experience for the men of Pi Kappa Phi.
"The true meaning of the trip is working with organizations across the country that serve people with disabilities and connecting with the friends, family and members associated with each organization," said Brent Grunig, USF coordinator of fraternity and sorority life and a former Journey of Hope crew member. "There's no way to prepare, or train for that except to actually do it with your team from the start."
"Helping with this cause has taught me a great deal about empathy and humility," Coet said. "When I was accepted into college I didn't know what I wanted to do following graduation. But working with people with disabilities has become something I'm very passionate about, and want to do for the rest of my life."
Patrick G. Veilleux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.