Steamboat Springs Eli Armstrong didn’t have to go far to find meaning in his Journey of Hope.
Armstrong’s 5-year-old cousin recently lost sight in one of his eyes when cancer took hold of his retina.
“I went out when he had surgery,” Armstrong said. “He’s one of my biggest inspirations.”
So each morning as Armstrong, a Colorado State University student, gets ready to ride with 28 other bikers, he thinks of his cousin.
The group is riding across the country as part of Push America, the national philanthropy of the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The group raises funds and awareness for people with disabilities. All are members of the fraternity, and all raised money for the event.
On Friday, the 29 riders and seven support crew members slowly poured in from Craig. It was Day 24 of their journey, marking about a third of the trip.
They began in San Francisco and plan to end up in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 13.
The nine-week, 4,000-mile event takes them across the country, and at each stop, they find more inspiration.
They have a friendship visit at every stopping point, where they meet people with disabilities. On Friday, the group was scheduled to have dinner with Horizons Specialized Services at the Maple House.
“I had the opportunity to do this,” rider Rick Yeager said. “I saw the older brothers and the impact it had on them.”
Each brother was asked to raise $5,000 through pledges from family, friends and local businesses.
This year the group raised $550,000, 86 percent of which will go to grants.
So far the trip has been accompanied by sunshine and moderate climbs. Most of the group members didn’t consider themselves serious riders. But given the chance, they jumped in.
“The bike is our disability,” Spencer Graham said. “Lots of us aren’t bike riders. Most of us picked up a bike six months ago and decided to go across the U.S. When we struggle through those climbs, we feel empathy with those we’re riding for.”
Riders also got a treat Friday as Bruce Rogers, the first member to do the ride in 1987, joined.
When Rogers did the inaugural trip, he did it solo. This year, its 24th, there are three teams and 99 riders.
“I never thought it would happen. It’s a great thing it turned out like this,” Rogers said. “Not only do you do this for a great cause, but you get to do it with great young men. These are going to be the new leaders of America.”
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com