Bicycling bunch befriends city during benefit

By Casey Peacock: Freedom Newspapers

After a 90-plus mile ride on bicycles in the sweltering sun, members of the Journey of Hope made their way to the Roosevelt County Courthouse square on Monday afternoon for a friendship visit with area citizens who have disabilities.

Journey of Hope is a 4,000-mile, 64-day cross-country trip that involves 30 members of the PI Kappa PHI nationwide fraternity.

The goal of the ride is to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities. Another aspect of the journey is to meet with area citizens with disabilities during friendship visits at stops along the route, said Bradley Bodiford, project manager for the 2007 Journey of Hope.

“We focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do. We focus on acceptance and inclusion. The biking is a way to get attention and awareness,” Bodiford said of the organization’s goal.

“I think things like this are so positive. It gives them a chance to interact with people who are so positive,” said Nina Kennedy, a behavior support consultant for MECA (Multi-cultural Evaluation and Consultation Associates) of Clovis, who was downtown with her clients to meet the riders.

In its 20th year, the organization has raised over $10 million through the fraternity’s efforts and their Push America organization. In order for members of the team to qualify for one of the three teams, they must raise a minimum of $5,000. With the team members’ donations and those of contributing sponsors, the organization will raise more than $500,000 during their campaign, according to a press release issued by the organization.

For riders A.J. Stewart and Anthony Varona, the ride has proven to be a lesson in gratification. They feel that they are not giving up their summer, but merely enhancing it with the opportunity to help others.

“I feel that those that are born with more abilities should help those who can’t. It feels good to give back,” Stewart said.

“I would have to say all my past summers cannot compare to this,” Varona said.