Biking 4,400 miles Trans-America, Rob Bailey, a senior accounting major, participated in Journey of Hope over the summer, one of the 7 programs associated with Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropy; The Ability Experience.
Pi Kappa Phi is unique in their philanthropy. The Ability Experience is self-run and self-funded, created by the fraternity. Pi Kappa Phi continues to run The Ability Experience as its own separate entity.
Bailey said that Pi Kappa Phi is the only national fraternity with its own philanthropy, with the goal of raising money and awareness for individuals with disabilities.
Bailey is a transfer student from Seton Hill and has been involved in Pi Kappa Phi from his first semester at Slippery Rock as a sophomore.
Bailey said that he had always wanted to see the country and started training in Seattle around June 4 for Journey of Hope, a cycling trip that collectively was 12,000 miles and the biggest program out of the seven offered.
The trip consisted of 23 cyclists, 5 crew members and a project manager who oversaw the journey. All participants and members were part of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Bailey said an average day consisted of waking up at 5 a.m., packing air mattresses and sleeping bags, throwing them into a van and moving onto the next town. Sometimes the cyclists would do arrivals, where they would cycle into a community or center for individuals with disabilities and engage in friendship visits.
“There were over 40 friendship visits,” Bailey said. We did things like dance parties. I’ve mastered the cupid shuffle and macarena. We would have water balloon fights in Kansas, we painted and did crafts. Sometimes we sat down and had dinner with them and hung out.”
Bailey said that there was a freeing feeling about being on a bike. He was able to look at snowcapped mountains in Colorado in the middle of summer and rode through forests and national parks.
“I saw an elk on the side of the road,” Bailey said. “You would spot a bear, we almost hit a deer. We were riding and the guys in front of me got sprayed by a skunk.”
Alongside the freeing feeling of cycling across the country, Bailey said that going to the centers and communities made his day because he saw how people lit up and how happy they were.
“I think it was a different experience every single day,” Bailey said. “No day was the same, even though every single day essentially was the same.”
The individuals at the centers thanked Bailey for coming back, even though he wasn’t part of the group that arrived last year and said they would see him next year.
“It’s what they look forward to,” Bailey said. “It’s so rewarding, because no matter how bad your day was on the bike or you end up getting a cold shower, they don’t have a bad attitude about anything. Their attitudes were contagious, and it was awesome.”
Bailey previously participated in a small weekend ability camp and said that Pi Kappa Phi has local events and fundraisers, but nothing that amounts to the size of Journey of Hope.
“I wanted to make a difference,” Bailey said. “In doing that, I think I was able to have over a thousand of these shared experiences that not only brightened the days of the people around me but made me a better person.”
Bailey and the other cyclists ended the Journey of Hope in Washington, D.C. on August 10.
“The story isn’t about us,” Bailey said. “It’s about the closest 550,000 dollars that we raised, the over 100 friendship visits that we had or the over 1,000 shared experiences that we had. Just to make an impact on people’s lives though they may look or seem like they have a disability. To them the only disability was a bad attitude and they never had that. It’s always been positive, and they were always the highlight of my day.”