NSU Pi Kapps participate in cross-country cycling trek to raise disability awareness

NSU Pi Kapps participate in cross-country cycling trek to raise disability awarenessSome members of the Northwestern State University Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity are participating in cross-country bicycle rides to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities.  The students are involved with Push America, a national Pi Kappa Phi organization that provides service to individuals with disabilities through fund-raising, awareness and volunteerism.

D.J. Klucznik of Bossier City and Rodney Clements of Keithville, will give up six weeks of their summer to participate in the Journey of Hope, a cycling trek from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The Journey of Hope is the largest fraternity fund-raising event of its kind and includes three separate routes for participants: a northern route, a trans-America route and a southern route.  Teams stop in cities along the routes for friendship visits in which members are involved in service projects or events for people with disabilities.

Klucznik, who has already raised $5,000 for the cause, will follow the southern route, while Clements will work as a team crew member for the northern route, assisting the group riders along the journey and coordinating public relations services.  Clements has raised $3,00 for the charity. In May, two other NSU students, Wil Adams of Baton Rouge and John Hall of Covington, participated in Push America’s Gear Up Florida trek, a two-week 800-mile cycling trek through Florida.

Klucznik became interested in participating in Journey of Hope a year ago and, having never cycled before, was lured by the personal challenge of biking cross-country and the desire to participate in a meaningful philanthropic activity.  Although the prospect of a cross-country bike journey is exciting, creating awareness about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and providing services to help them is his main focus.

“The hardest things to overcome are stereotypes and misconceptions,” said Klucznik, who had a personal experience interacting with disabled children during a stay at Shriner’s Hospital in Shreveport, following a high school injury. “I was the oldest patient there and it made an impression on me.”

“The guys get nothing out of the fund-raising or trip other than the feeling of knowing that they may have touched the life of  someone who  struggles with a disability in some way,” said Lane Luckie of Lake Charles, public relations chair for the NSU Pi Kappa Phi chapter. “These national events are great, but the fraternity sponsors events, fund-raisers and service projects through Push America here at NSU, so it has a local connection.”

Push America was founded in 1977 by Pi Kappa Phi with the purpose of instilling a sense of service in its members and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. The Journey of Hope began in 1987, when a  21-person team cycled from the west coast to Washington, D.C. Gear Up Florida was created in 1997. Participants bike approximately 85 miles per day. The friendship visits along the route involve events such as puppet shows for children or social dances for disabled individuals.

“A lot of our riders have said the dance is more fun than the ride,” Klucznik said. “This is one of the reasons I joined the fraternity.”

The cyclists will depart from San Francisco on June 10.  Participants on the southern route are scheduled for stops in Fort Worth on July 15, two stops in Dallas on July 16-17, Terrell, Texas, on July 18, and Longview, Texas, on July 19. The NSU chapter of Pi Kappa Phi will gather at Holy Angels Residential Facility in Shreveport to greet riders and entertain residents for their scheduled visit on July 20.  Other area visits are planned in Monroe on July 21 and Vicksburg, Miss., on July 22.   The Washington, D.C. arrival is scheduled for Aug. 12.

Klucznik has been impressed with people who supported the cause because nearly everyone knows someone with a disability.  Between the riders and chapter fund-raising efforts, the NSU Pi Kappa Phi chapter has raised nearly $15,000 for Push America.

“Push America affects a lot of people and touches a lot of lives,” said Luckie, who has been involved in local awareness campaigns and projects to build wheelchair ramps and covered walkways at facilities that aid the disabled. “It takes giving to the community to another level.  It teaches people to be aware and the participants get so much out of interacting with people with disabilities. It changes the lives of the people who are involved, while helping others overcome stereotypes.”

For more information, visit www.pushamerica.org.  Visitors can click on the Events link for information about the Journey of Hope, which links to route maps and a roster/profile section for each participant.  On-line viewers will be able to view statements from Klucznik and Clements, as well as track the cyclists’ itineraries and on-line journal entries.  Information on sponsorships and donations is also available.

[News release by Leah Jackson of the NSU News Bureau.]