4,200 mile ride for hope

This summer, WSU student Cameron Stone will bike over 4,200 miles to benefit people with disabilities. His inspiration to do this came from one person: a boy named Jack.

Jack, a member in a close friend’s family, has fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition linked with a mental disability. Jack is the same age as Stone’s little brother, Stone said.

“I’ve grown up hanging out with him, babysitting him, hanging out with our families. It definitely opened my eyes, being exposed to that. I’m pretty fortunate to have known Jack,” Stone said. “I’ve always wanted to do something for people with disabilities because I know Jack.”

The bike ride, called the Journey of Hope, is the national philanthropy for Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The riders will leave in three teams from Seattle, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Stone will be taking off from Seattle at the end of May.

Stone said the philanthropy stood out to him during recruitment.

“This is it. This is how I can help people like Jack, and do something for Jack,” Stone said.

Twenty students from Pi Kappa Phi chapters across the country will take off from Seattle at the end of May and bike the longest route across the country to a destination in Washington, D.C., arriving in August.

Students on the trip are required to raise a minimum of $5,500 to participate, said Nick Brady, the director of logistics for Push America, the parent organization for Journey of Hope. Stone said he has raised more than $6,300.

“When we go across the country it’s about as low budget as possible. We sleep on the floors of high schools, the floors of churches. The generosity is pretty amazing – most of our meals get sponsored,” Stone said. “All the money we fundraise and don’t spend gets donated to Push America.”

Push America is unique in that it has become the right arm of Pi Kappa Phi, both to provide service experience to the fraternity men and to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities, Brady said.

Stone fundraised for the Journey for Hope with support from his fraternity brothers and through a letter campaign, which yielded the most funding.

“Hopefully I get it done. Not so much for me, but for everyone who donated and everyone we’ll be seeing along the way,” Stone said. “To do it right for them is the biggest pressure and nervousness.”

In addition to raising money for the organization, the ride will also feature ‘Friendship Visits,’ or visits with disabled people along the way.

These visits are an incredibly moving part of the trip, Brady said.

“You’re going to have a moment where you grow up a little bit, and you realize you are having a true impact and you understand the true meaning of the Journey of Hope,” Brady said.

Brady, who rode in 2012, specifically remembered a bowling and dancing Friendship Visit in Iowa. The 38 team members danced on the lanes in a choreographed routine.

“When you see the smiles you bring to the clients’ face, it’s completely worth it,” Brady said.

Ian Turner, a WSU and Pi Kappa Phi alumnus who participated in the Journey of Hope in 2003, said he remembered the Friendship Visits as wonderful and unpredictable.

“One thing that was really neat was just seeing how special of a time it was for them to know that our team was there to see them, to spend time with them, to enjoy their company,” Turner said. “I think far too often, they are marginalized within society. It’s something that is very heartbreaking for them.”

Stone said people often treat those with disabilities as people who need to be catered to when that is not necessarily the case.

“Empathy is not what they’re after. They’re after equality,” Stone said. “They don’t want to be sympathized because they are so completely capable.”

One example of this is a Friendship Visit Stone is looking forward to – playing wheelchair basketball against a team of disabled veterans.

“The goal for the Pi Kaps is just to score three baskets because these guys are just phenomenal,” Stone said. “These guys are just amazing athletes.”

Turner said the Friendship Visits occurred as many days as Push America could negotiate, and he estimated about two-thirds of the days on his trip.

The visits will take place at the end of the day after many miles of biking, which Stone estimated to be about 70 miles per day over the 75-day trip.

“I’m trying to go in with no expectations, just to go in and give and get the most I can out of it,” he said.

Every day, one member of the team will dedicate that day to a specific disability. The members will pray for that disability, he said. Stone said he plans to dedicate his day to fragile X syndrome.

Stone said he is the first WSU representative to participate in three years.

“The impact that it has for a lifetime is something that a lot of guys don’t expect,” Turner said of his trip. “I know I certainly didn’t.”

Brady met Stone at a training evaluation in Pasco earlier this month. He described Stone as biking up and down a hill like it was flat and said he had the physique and the temperament to succeed.

“Humble people like Cameron, he’s going to shine this summer and we know that for a fact,” Brady said.