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Cross-Country Bike Ride Brings Message of Awareness to Capitol

After pedaling across the country, 86 college students will bike their last few miles to reach the Capitol steps Saturday.

The members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity will be finishing a two-month journey from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of disabled people’s abilities.

During the trip they have divided into two groups, one biking through the northern part of the country and the other through the southern states, and have interacted with more than 30 million people at special events to support the disabled.

The teams visited with community organizations, performing puppet shows for children and meeting people with disabilities.

The college students from around the country have slept on gym floors, in church facilities and, on rare occasions, in hotels.

“We just stay wherever we can and take what we can get, so the money we raise benefits our programs,” said Thane Norman, a 21-year-old senior from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Each rider raised $5,000 to participate and went through an application process. Norman said he decided to apply because the fraternity chapter at his school usually sends someone, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do for the summer.

“It’s definitely been a great experience in my life,” he said, noting that although he didn’t know any of the other riders, they became instant friends as well as teammates.

The ride is overseen by Push America, a nonprofit founded to support the national fraternity’s philanthropy project. In 1987, one fraternity member took the cross-country journey, and the next year 21 members continued the now-tradition.

Many of the riders had been casual bikers, but now riding for five or six hours a day has become routine.

Last summer, the journey raised more than $350,000 to support Push America’s programs, which include building handicap-

accessible public facilities, running a camp for children with disabilities, helping other camps become handicap accessible and providing wheelchair-accessible ramps for low-income families.

The riders will arrive at the West Front of the Capitol around noon to reunite with parents, friends and supporters.

For more information on the ride, go to www.pushamerica.org.

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