Journey of Hope makes return visit

June 29, 2012 • Local News

The Push America Journey of Hope bicycle team arrives at Tobosa Developmental Services, Thursday, one of their many stops during a cross-country journey from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson Photo

Thirty cyclists on a coast-to-coast fundraiser trek stopped in Roswell, Thursday, taking a break from a Journey of Hope set to collectively raise more than $650,000 for people with disabilities. The Journey of Hope is organized by Push America, the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi. The cyclists are college students or recent college graduates from across the United States who are involved in various chapters of the fraternity, with each cyclist pledging last year to raise $5,500 or more for their summer adventure.

The group that arrived in Roswell is one of three teams that departed from the West Coast earlier this month. The cyclists set off June 11 from Long Beach, Calif., [auth] and arrived in Roswell Thursday afternoon for two visits with staff and clients of Tobosa Developmental Services.

Push America public relations crew member Cody Shepherd said about 100 total participants spent the past school year fundraising to reach or exceed the $5,500 goal. He said teams will cycle a combined 12,000 miles this summer, before concluding their journey Aug. 5 in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Shepherd said. “We’ve been on the road for two-and-a-half weeks now, and honestly, at some times it feels much longer than that. … The bond we have between each other has grown to where we feel like we’ve been together for months now.”

Shepherd said interactions with people who have disabilities represent to him the most valuable part of the experience. The cyclists term these interactions “friendship visits,” and so far have spoken with people on stops including Victorville, Calif., Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and Tempe, Ariz.

“I’d say that’s the best part to me, because you get to know them,” Shepherd said. “They accept you for who you are, and you’re really just a total stranger to them. But they talk, they interact — and us coming to visit them is one of the few times where people actually go and visit with them. So I find it amazing whenever we can have that much of an influence.”

Joan Blodgett, Tobosa information technology executive, commented, “We have done this for I-don’t-know-how-many years! We’ve had a long-term friendship with them. … We’re getting acquainted so they can get to know our folks, and our folks can know there’s somebody out there who really cares about them.”

Shepherd, a theater major, said in Arizona cyclists were able to visit with a child involved in a theater group composed entirely of people with disabilities, an experience he says will serve to inspire him for years to come.

“It’s not about what a person can’t do, it’s what a person can do,” Shepherd said. “And that’s one of the things I love to emphasize, is that when I see a person with a disability, I see them for who they are and not what’s wrong with them.

“… There are 54 million Americans with a disability today. And a lot of times you can’t see what’s wrong with the person. So when I look at a person, I see them for who they are. I don’t see a person with a disability, as if there’s something wrong with them. And that’s a lot of what our cause is — to get people involved, to get people motivated. That’s what we’re all here for.”

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