Since the late 1980s, members of Pi Kappa Phi, a national fraternity, have been riding across the country via bicycle raising awareness for people with disabilities. This year, an Averett junior and Danville resident will join Push America's annual Journey of Hope. Cody Shepherd, a double major in theatre and biology, knew from the moment he learned about the cross-country bike ride that he wanted to participate in and support the Journey of Hope.
"I feel that by participating in the Journey of Hope I can stand up as a leader and support a cause that I truly believe in," Shepherd said. "I think that it is important to participate in events like this because you can go out and serve not only the people of local communities, but also people with disabilities on a national level as well.
"Push America's focus is to serve, fundraise and spread awareness for people with disabilities. A person with a disability is the same as you or me – they just often live life somewhat differently than we do."
The trip will start in three different locations on the West Coast –San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, Wash. – in late May or early June. Shepherd is not sure which route he will be placed on, but is hopeful it will be the south route which will come through Danville on July 31. The trek will end in early August with all three teams converging on the Capital Building in Washington, D.C.
The cyclists will travel 75 miles a day, and at each stop they will participate in activities that support people with disabilities like playing a game of wheelchair basketball or performing puppet shows to educate children on the abilities of people with disabilities.
Shepherd is serving as a member of the crew for one of the three teams. As a member of the crew, he will help provide full support to the cyclists, volunteers and community partners. He will learn the full extent of his responsibilities at a training session in March during Averett's spring break.
Since he doesn't have to train for the ride, Shepherd is focused on fundraising for the trip. His goal is to raise $3,000, and he has already raised more than $1,000.
"Surprisingly, that money was really easy to obtain," Shepherd said. "I first reached out to Pi Kappa Phi alumni from Averett, and I did a lot of Facebook badgering. Also, even though $3,000 is my goal, that doesn't mean that is a stopping point. I will fundraise until the second I head to the West Coast, and I probably won't even stop then."
In an effort to reach his goal, Shepherd is writing a letter to Averett faculty and staff for possible donations. He is also going to organize a pocket change fundraiser to reach out to faculty, staff and students.
"I especially want to reach students through the pocket change fundraiser to show them that even though they are on restricted funds, they can still participate in fundraisers. A lot of students have loose change laying around in drawers, buckets, car cup holders, etc., and that money can be used for a good cause."