James Scharnikow, left, and Fletcher Cline are part of a 90-man bike tour riding from San Francisco to Washington D.C.to raise money and awareness for disabled people. All three teams of 30 men each are scheduled to arrive in Washington August 5
ALBANY, Ga. — Early this week, a 30-member bike team pedaled wearily but safely into Cumberland, Md., from it’s start in San Francisco. The northern leg of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity’s “Journey of Hope” was closing fast on Washington, D.C., only 150 miles away.
When combined with its southern and “TransAmerica” routes, the 90-rider, 12,000-mile mission is being called largest fraternal fundraising and awareness event of its kind. Its purpose: to raise money and acceptance for people with disabilities.
Among those on the northern route are Fletcher Cline, a senior at The College of Charleston, and his good friend, James Scharnikow, whose parents, John and Michelle, live in Leesburg. Scharnikow is a senior at the University of Georgia.
To qualify as a cycling team member, candidates were required to raise a minimum of $5,500 two weeks prior to the trip, Cline said. Typically, members raise the money by soliciting friends and family.
According to Cline, the bikers pedal 75 to 85 miles each day between stops with “friendship visits” to organizations of disabled people included at the finish. During the visits, Journey of Hope participants spend afternoons and evenings with disabled children and adults, sometimes participating in activities such as basketball, baseball, dancing or general arts.
“There are over 54 million Americans living with disabilities,” Scharnikow said. “One of the most tragic things with which they have to deal is a lack of understanding by our society. A simple message of empathy and acceptance is all it takes to break the barrier.”
Westbrook said the teams also distribute grants directly to various organizations serving individuals with disabilities.
Journey of Hope got its start in 1988 as a program of Push America, a philanthropic project founded by Pi Kappa Phi in 1977 to provide aid and awareness to the disabled. The three biker groups are scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C., today.