GW juniors Jake DiGregorio and Pat Kirby will spend most of their summer biking – 4,000 miles from California to Washington.
The Pi Kappa Phi brothers will participate in the 64-day Journey of Hope event hosted by their fraternity’s national philanthropic organization, Push America.
“If I went back home and worked at my minimum-wage job again, I would feel like it was just a total waste,” said DiGregorio, who is also a staff writer for The Hatchet’s arts section. “This summer I get the chance to do something really special. When I looked at it that way, I felt that it wasn’t only the right thing to do, it was really the only thing to do.”
Throughout the trip, both DiGregorio and Kirby will make “friendship visits” each day to volunteers at a different centers that support those with disabilities.
“It’s all about spending time with (the disabled) and trying to bring a smile to their faces,” DiGregorio said. “(This) is not an everyday occurrence for some of them. To them, the cyclists become superheroes.”
Additionally, they will help with events such as wheelchair basketball games and pool parties, Kirby said. The cycling teams will perform with “Kids on the Block” puppet shows for children with disabilities, as well as sing-a-longs, dinners and dances, according to the Push America Web site.
Participants in the race must raise a minimum of $5,000. Proceeds will go to various organizations that help those with disabilities.
Both cyclists rode in a six-hour bike-a-thon in Kogan Plaza April 26 to raise more money. While the two rode their bikes on stationary stands, other Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members asked for donations.
DiGregorio and Kirby have raised about $13,000 and $7,000, respectively.
Nationally, Pi Kappa Phi raises more than $500,000 through Journey of Hope. This year, 42 other Pi Kappa Phi members will race with DiGregorio and Kirby.
“I decided to do (Journey of Hope) because I think it is the best way I can impact the most lives and get to see the whole country at the same time,” Kirby said. “On the trip, I hope to meet as many people as possible and to feel like I have made a difference in each city before I leave for the next.”
Though both DiGregorio and Kirby have not cycled before, the two said they are still excited.
“I am a little nervous about the physical demands of the trip,” said Kirby, who has tried to ride 20 to 30 miles per day.
“We’ve been training pretty hard, but nothing can really fully prepare you for something like this,” DiGregorio said. Though he recently broke his wrist cycling, he said this setback will not prevent him from being ready by June.
Previously, seven other members of the GW chapter of Pi Kappa Phi have participated in the Journey of Hope, said freshman Andrew Metcalf.
The Journey of Hope, started by Push America in 1988, began the previous year when Bruce Rogers cycled across the country to raise awareness about the philanthropy, which was founded in 1977.
“What’s special about Pi Kapp is that it is the only national fraternity to have its own philanthropy as a part of the national organization,” Kirby said. “Meaning that it was founded and is still run by Pi Kapps. Push America is dedicated to helping people with disabilities and raising disability awareness.”
The journey will start June 10 in San Francisco and end on the Capitol steps in Washington Aug. 12.