Four members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity are returning to Northwestern State University this Fall with a Summer experience unlike any of their peers.
On Saturday, August 13, Thomas Marlbrough, Michael Dailey, Sean Austin, and William Devall celebrated their completion of the largest fraternal fundraising and awareness event of its kind, the Journey of Hope.
Every summer, 90 Pi Kappa Phi undergraduate and alumni members from across the United States cycle 4,000 miles from the west coast to Washington, D.C. participating in activities and events to promote a greater understanding of people with disabilities.
Through team member fundraising and corporate sponsorships, the event raises more than $600,000 for fraternity’s philanthropy, The Ability Experience. The national nonprofit organization enhances the lives of people with disabilities through educational programs, awareness raising events, and donations of specially designed equipment and recreational environments.
Each team member raises a minimum of $5,500 to qualify for one of the three routes of the annual cross-country bicycle trek that begin on the West Coast. The North Route sets out from San Francisco, the South Route from Los Angeles, and TransAmerica begins in Seattle. The teams arrive together on the East Coast and ride together to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, after having visited 32 states.
This year, Devall’s uncle Wes Breeden, a fellow Beta Omicron Chapter alumnus who also rode the Journey of Hope in 2000, was among the supporters who gathered on the Capitol lawn. Devall says he’ll never forget seeing his family as he rode up.
“It was truly amazing to see so many familiar and loving faces to watch me finish out my journey. This summer has challenged me beyond belief and I could not have done it without the other 37 guys who rode along side me all Summer. These guys pushed me in ways that I didn’t think were possible.“
The true impact of the Journey of Hope can be felt through its programming across the nation. After riding an average of 75 miles a day, you’d never find these NSU Pi Kappa Phi members napping or preparing for the next day’s ride. The were dancing at a friendship visit with a local group that supports people with disabilities, participating in a game of wheelchair basketball, performing puppet shows to educate children on the abilities of people with disabilities, and learning life lessons that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
Marlbrough said the rewards are great, despite a physically demanding ride.
“This cross country trip has been so eye opening the amazing people we meet with everyday have truly inspired me to push past all the climbs and long days.”
In towns large and small, the Journey of Hope reaches out to people through newspapers, radio and television, civic groups and community leaders, reaching millions of people annually and bringing to the forefront the abilities of people with disabilities.
Many of the cyclists form instant friendships with the people they meet along the route. Austin said he will never forget Hannah, a girl with an intellectual disability he met through the Special Olympics of Denver.
“She is so ambitious, so determined and strong willed. We had a great conversation and she always said ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me.’ It was so nice to spend time with someone that was so genuine.”
Austin says his work with The Ability Experience won’t end with this journey.
“I will never be able to repay what I am indebted. I will forever wear my letters proudly and give back whenever I can.”