Few people can say that they’ve successfully traveled from coast-to-coast; even fewer for a cause far greater than themselves.
Trace Anthon, a member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at Northwestern State University, just completed the Journey of Hope, a cross-country cycling trek that raises money and awareness for projects that serve people with disabilities. The event is a project of the national fraternity’s philanthropy, The Ability Experience.
Each year a group of highly dedicated Pi Kapps from around the country make a commitment to challenge themselves to accomplish more than they ever have, step into the unknown and take part in the best summer of their lives.
This year, with two routes kicking off on the West Coast, both teams spent the summer crossing the country over a combined 8,000 miles, with an arrival at the Capitol Lawn in Washington, D.C. to mark the end of the life-changing event. Along the way, the teams spread the message of disability awareness through local media and makes stops at partner organizations to deliver joy to friends from the disability community.
“Even though our mission is to help others, this trip has taught me plenty about initiative, assertiveness, and compassion. This event churns out servant leaders and I’m glad to be the next one,” Anthon said.
Anthon, a senior Liberal Arts major with a concentration in Philosophy Politics and Economics from Hammond, Louisiana, served as a crew member for the Journey of Hope North team.
“I haven’t really left Louisiana for most of my life, so it’s good seeing the overwhelming beauty that the U.S. has to offer. I never thought I would see so many mountains, deserts, and cities in the span of a few months. My favorite city would probably be Grand Island, Nebraska. The state doesn’t have the most landmarks, but we had multiple friendship visits in the city and they welcome us with the most open arms.”
After completing each day’s ride, which averaged 75 miles, the Pi Kapps were dancing, playing games, or leading campfire songs at a friendship visit with a local group that supports people with disabilities. For many of the partner organizations, the team’s arrival each year is something folks anticipate like a holiday.
Journey of Hope’s uniqueness also draws the attention of local media in markets across the county. This enables The Ability Experience to spread a message of awareness and inclusion everywhere we go and help showcase partner organizations to broader audiences than they could on their own. Teams also provide additional support to dozens of organization through grants each year.
“The deciding factor in me joining Pi Kappa Phi was the opportunity to participate in the Journey of Hope for its mission of empowering people in the disability community. I knew how the world could treat somebody for being different, so I wanted to put a little love into the world. But when I went out into that world I found people who are loving, that care, and who give it their all everyday. That pushes us to go on.”
Last year, the Journey of Hope raised more than $320,000 toward these efforts.
Anthon and his teammates set out from San Francisco on June 11 and arrived in Washington, D.C. on August 13.
“If there’s anything I wanted people to know anything about my experience working with the Ability Experience, it would be that it has been and probably will be the most impactful and emotional thing I’ll ever do.”
He becomes the 15th initiate of the Beta Omicron Chapter to complete the Journey of Hope since 2001.
“In 63 days we led a team of cyclists from Pi Kapp chapters across America on a trip from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities ($400,000 btw. Not to flex or anything).
I am exhausted. We had some pretty long days and some rough conditions but we made it.
This trip really has taught me so much about perseverance and the importance of charity in your actions. We had what we call “Friendship Visits” in many of the cities we visited to give companionship and fun to members of the disability community. I’ve never spoken to so many people in my life and I love it. This trip bred confidence in me I never knew I was missing.
These 21 guys on my North route team are some of the strongest, funniest, and outgoing frat-stars there is to offer and I’m proud to be one of them. I’m gonna miss all of them.
I want to point out something Bruce Rogers, who started this trip on his own many years ago, told us why he had pursued this goal to cycle the nation for the awareness of others: “I had a little time before I had to go to work, and I wanted to use that time for good.”
To end my ramblings, I must say as excited I am to be coming back to Natchitoches, I’m so happy that this small town Louisiana boy could see what the country has to offer and to put some love out into a world I know needs it. This was the most impactful summer I’ve ever had, and it would take a lot to top it.”Trace Anthon upon completing the Journey of Hope