Pi Kappa Phi bikes across Europe

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    For two weeks in August, members of fraternity Pi Kappa Phi biked hundreds of miles across Europe to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities.

    Jay Baumgardner, a junior, and seniors Hunter Sprague and Addison White created Awareness Europe, a 15-day, 1,000-mile cycling journey that began on Aug. 15. in Scotland and ended in the Netherlands.

    "It was significant to me because I was finally able to help someone," Baumgardner said.    

    The journey brought unexpected challenges, including the hilly terrain of the United Kingdom, flat tires and cultural differences, Sprague said. 

    Sprague said he decided to plan the trip after participating in the 2011 Journey of Hope, a 4,100 mile bike trip from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The trip was intended to increase awareness of people with disabilities, in addition to raising money for the cause. 

     White said he had also been a part of the 2011 Journey of Hope, but as a crew member rather than a cyclist. When Sprague suggested taking Journey of Hope to Europe, White said he wanted to participate as a cyclist.

     Pi Kappa Phi supports Push America, an organization that raises awareness for people with disabilities, Sprague said. 

     “I figured that Push America does a great job in the United States of America that I thought that it would be a challenge for us, for Push America, for Pi Kapp, to try and bring that mission overseas,” Sprague said. 

     After volunteering at KinderFrogs, Baumgardner said he wanted to dedicate more time to raising awareness for people with disabilities.

     “I’ve done mission trips and stuff before," Baumgardner said. "But it’s so different when you actually get to see how you’re affecting people and how much you’re changing and trying to help."

     The cyclists participated in “friendship visits” in four cities where they volunteered their time with various organizations that support people with disabilities, Sprague said.

     Finding places to volunteer for a short periods of time while the cyclists were in each city was a challenge. Volunteering in Europe usually requires a time commitment similar to a full-time or part-time job, Sprague said. 

    White said he remembered playing a game of “blind cricket” with a visually impaired cricket club in Newcastle, England during one of their visits. Instead of a cricket ball, the team played with a rice-filled soccer ball, which made sound so that the visually impaired team would be able to know the ball’s location. 

     Sprague said Awareness Europe surpassed its goal of $5,000 in donations. $14,326 has been collected, due in part sponsorships with companies, such as Asia Broadcast Satellite. In addition, each of the cyclists donated $1,250 to the four locations they visited.

    Sprague said 70 percent of the money raised went to the organizations they visited, and 30 percent went to paying for the trip expenses including lodging, rental cars and food.

     White said interacting with people with disabilities while spending time with his chapter brothers was rewarding.

     “Being able to share our experience, to share how we volunteer in our communities in the States, and talking to them about the type of support people with disabilities have over in Europe was a pretty incredible experience,” White said.

    Cyclists from Awareness Europe blogged throughout their journey.