September 19, 2017  

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Students Complete Cross-Country Bike Ride for Pi Kappa Phi’s “Journey of Hope”

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Southern Miss students Cam Kenney, left, and Will Ford celebrate at the U.S. Capitol Aug. 12 after completing "Journey of Hope," a cross-country bicycle trek fundraiser held by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that supports persons with disabilities. (Submitted photo)

When the task before them seemed too daunting, Cam Kenney and Will Ford took inspiration from those with greater challenges to meet theirs to the end.

Kenney and Ford, both students at the University of Southern Mississippi and members of its chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, rode their bikes across the United States June 3 - Aug.12 in support of their fraternity’s charity “Journey of Hope,” an annual cross-country bicycle trek which is a fundraiser supporting services and programs for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

The annual event began in 1987 and now brings in approximately $500,000 each year, while also promoting acceptance and understanding of people with disabilities.

Kenney started in San Francisco, while Ford began the trek in Seattle. The two, who are also students in the USM Honors College, crossed paths in Denver before resuming their respective routes and then reuniting in Washington, D.C. at the event’s conclusion.

“This challenged me in every way – mentally, spiritually and physically,” said Ford, a junior public relations major from Oak Grove, Miss. “I’m so proud to say I’ve been a part of it.”

Kenney, a junior marketing major from Mobile, Ala., greeted his older brother at the finish when he participated in the event five years ago, inspiring him to follow suit this year. “He said it was the best thing he’s ever done, and after doing it myself, I can say the same,” Kenney said.

Participating cyclists stopped for ‘friendship visits’ at agencies and homes serving those with disabilities along their routes to meet with those they supported through the event, taking part in games of wheelchair basketball, performing puppet shows to educate children on the abilities of people with disabilities, attending dances or cookouts, among other activities.

In addition to overcoming the physical challenge Journey of Hope presents, Kenney and Ford said the lessons they learned from those they met along the way will impact them forever.

“A lot of these people are so happy, so positive, and some are even proud to claim their disabilities and how they’ve overcome challenges, including stereotypes and lack of understanding from others,” Ford said. “There’s just no way to prepare yourself for the kind of effect these visits will have.”

“We rode our bikes across the country for some of these kids who wish they could ride their bikes across the street,” Kenney said. “So when we’re struggling to ride up some of these hills or start getting tired on the way, remembering that put things back in focus.”

In speaking with Will and Cam throughout the summer, USM Director of Greek Life Charles Childress could tell the effect Journey of Hope had on them, and the positive impact they imparted during their friendship visits. “Their involvement shows their commitment to the fraternal values held by both their organization and the North American Interfraternity Conference. I’m proud of both of them and all they accomplish each day," Childress said.

Southern Miss Honors College Dean Ellen Weinauer said that “in making this extraordinary journey, Cam and Will remind us what real commitment to the common good looks like.”  

"These young men are not only amazing, high-achieving students, but they’re also exemplary and caring citizens,” she said. “I look forward to celebrating their achievement with them upon their return to campus.”

Learn more about Journey of Hope at http://www.abilityexperience.org/journeyofhope.aspx.