Horizons welcomes annual fraternity brothers’ Friendship visit | SteamboatToday.com

Horizons welcomes annual fraternity brothers’ Friendship visit

Horizons Specialized Services client Keith Fortune shows Texas Christian University student Ethan Murray his version of Michael Jackson's famous "Thriller" dance Friday evening. Murray has joined fellow Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members nationwide on their annual Journey of Hope ride from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to engage with people with developmental disabilities.
Ben Ingersoll

— Journey of Hope’s annual trek across the country and through Steamboat means so much more than road bike exercise and a heavy dose of Rocky Mountain scenery during its second week of riding.

The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers gather from colleges across the United States, covering more than 12,000 miles in all as part of the nonprofit Push America’s drive to enrich the lives of those with developmental disabilities. They left from San Francisco three weeks ago, making a journey through the peaks of the Sierras and through miles and miles of the desert flatlands in Nevada and western Utah.

By default, the North Team’s stop in Steamboat makes it arguably the most scenic stop so far.

The riders aren’t here to snap photos and tour the town, though that undoubtedly will be part of their 24-hour stop on the 24th day of the trek.

The team rides each summer to engage with individuals with disabilities from coast to coast — Friendship visits, they call them — stopping by places such as Horizons Specialized Services in downtown Steamboat each year to socialize with their clients and enjoy a night of conversation, pizza and, of course, a little dancing.

“It’s such a cool scene,” Horizons Volunteer Coordinator Tommy Larson said. “They expand the clients’ circle a bit. For a day, they get to meet new people from all over the country. It’s the outreach from the Push America guys that make the program special.”

They come from Pi Kappa Phi chapters chartered at various American universities, and a few are well versed in the annual ride. Each cyclist commits to raising a minimum of $5,500 to go directly toward people with disabilities, and the total breaches more than half a million dollars.

They are college-aged men, most just barely escaping their teenage years. But what they may lack in old-age wisdom, they make up for with their ability to connect with folks whom Horizons serves on a daily basis.

“These guys, you sit down to introduce them (with our clients), and they are like, ‘We got this,’” Larson said. “It’s awesome. It’s not their first rodeo. They’ve been talking with people with disabilities for weeks now.”

Push America assembles three crews each summer, each packed with fraternity brothers and each with a different itinerary. They are led by logistics leaders, college riders who take early leads ahead of the pack and carry living essentials, such as sleeping bags and toiletries, and determine where to set up camp upon arrival. They are the support crew, Larson said.

The young men have been stopping in Steamboat for years to engage with Horizons clients, typically setting up itinerary details six months or so in advance. And when they arrive, they support the Steamboat Horizons branch with a grant and are gone early the next day, making the steep ascent through Rabbit Ears Pass and heading on to their next destination in Breckenridge.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and really how fortunate we are and how lucky we are to give back and even have this opportunity,” Arizona State Pi Kappa Phi member Aaron Hasson said. “A lot of people see it as work or us losing a summer, but we’re a part of the few to have this opportunity.”

The North Team’s ride and Friendship visits will conclude in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 2.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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