Emory Report
August 6, 2007
Volume 59, Number 36

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August 6, 2007
Cyclists’ Journey of Hope visit marks start of a new partnership

By kim Urquhart

They’d cycled over snow-dusted mountains and braved 100-degree temperatures under the desert sun on a cross-country bicycle trek to support people with disabilities. On July 30, the “Journey of Hope” cyclists from Pi Kappa Phi fraternity had one last hill to climb — up Shoup Court for an en masse arrival at the Clairmont Campus — where they were met with a warm welcome at the Emory Autism Center.

They had cycled 65 miles from Carrollton, Ga. that morning, yet their energy never wavered. After refueling with cookies and punch at the Emory Autism Center, the cyclists switched gears to play, paint and laugh with the children in the Center’s preschool program.

“Friendship visits” such as these are an integral part of the Journey of Hope, the 20th annual fundraising event of Push America, the national outreach project of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The cyclists also spent time with the Center’s adult clients and their families at Dave & Buster’s in Duluth.

“We spend a day in each town, and we feel like we are making a difference if we can bring joy to a person with disabilities for even one hour,” said Journey of Hope team member Todd Heffner, a student at Georgia Tech. “It lifts us up.”

Three teams of college students from around the country left from San Francisco and Seattle in June. Traveling more than 12,000 miles on regional routes, the cyclists are currently making their way across America, stopping in 180 cities in 33 states to convene in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12. Through team member fundraising and corporate sponsorships, the Journey will raise more than $500,000 that will go toward enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.

“Our bikes are the tool that allows us to create awareness,” said Clint Green, a Pi Kappa Phi at Mercer University who raised $5,000 and logged 500 miles in preparation for the Journey of Hope. “But more important than the bike is the time we get to spend with people with disabilities.”

The Emory Autism Center, part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, was chosen by Push America because of its dedication to the diagnosis and treatment of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders. But the Push America team had another reason for visiting Emory: Pi Kappa Phi fraternity plans to form a chapter here this fall.

Push America’s Director of Team Services David Shankli, who enters Goizeuta Business School’s MBA program this month, believes that Pi Kappa Phi can fill a unique niche at Emory. “No other fraternity has anything like this,” Shanklin said of Push America, explaining that Pi Kappa Phi is the only national fraternity to establish and maintain its own national philanthropy.

During the cyclists’ tour of the Emory Autism Center, Shanklin and Sheila Wagner, the Center’s assistant director, discussed opportunities for fraternity members to support and volunteer at the Center. “It’s a perfect fit,” Shanklin said.

“We hope this is the start of a long relationship,” Wagner added.