The Journey of Hope

TRAVELING TRIO: Ben Hardee, Jose Polez-Marrero and Liam Wyman head into Granbury via US 377 as part of the Journey of Hope to Washington DC.

The brightly clad cyclists whizzing down U.S. 377 through Granbury toward Fort Worth on July 15 certainly attracted people’s attention, and Ben Hardee and his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers could not be happier.

Hardee and his fellow Journey of Hope riders are on a two-month-long journey of 3,663 miles across the southern United States from Santa Barbara, California to Washington D.C. The program is part of the fraternity’s national fundraising organization, The Ability Experience.

Hardee is part of the organization’s southern team, and another team is riding through the northern states on a trip of 3,725.

“We are raising money for people with disabilities and at the same time are bringing awareness to the plight of those who have disabilities,” Hardee said. “Normally, we would have had three teams, but things have been trimmed back a little due to COVID.”

Last year the event was done virtually, and that hurt the fundraising, but it has popped back up to more than $320,000 this year.

It’s been an incredible journey so far, with the mountains and challenging climbs in California burning up the muscles and the heat of Arizona adding to the challenge. Hardee’s team covered 530 miles in six days from Arizona into New Mexico.

“I have loved riding through West Texas and seeing all the big ranches out there,” Hardee said. “The landscapes and sunrises here have been incredible.”

Hardee had just finished the leg between Stephenville and Fort Worth, and often he and other riders are called upon to speak with the media in towns where they make stops.

“It’s cool when we get calls from newspapers like the ‘Hood County News’ because we know we are attracting the attention to our cause when we get calls from reporters along the way,” Hardee said.

Founded in 1977 to give back to the world, The Ability Experience has several fundraising programs. Still, The Journey of Hope takes rock-solid commitment because it requires riders to block two solid months out of their lives, and that doesn’t include up to 1,000 miles of training before heading out.

Riders typically rise at 4:30 a.m. and try to complete each day’s ride between 1-2 p.m., so they don’t burn up in the heat. The hottest day so far in 2021 has been 116 degrees in Arizona.

THE JOURNEY OF HOPE

Each year, more than 100 men embark on this cross-country trip to test their limits, spread awareness, and celebrate the abilities of all people. With three routes kicking off on the West Coast, teams spend the summer crossing the country over a combined 12,000 miles with an arrival at the Capitol Lawn in Washington D.C. to mark the end of a life-changing event. Along the way, the team spreads disability awareness through local news media and stops at partner organizations.

Pi Kappa Phi remains the only Greek organization to have developed and maintain its own national philanthropy. Creative fundraising events like bike-a-thons, scaffold sits, and pageants have helped the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi collectively fundraise more than $15 million in support of The Ability Experience’s programs.

These funds are distributed across the country to benefit people with disabilities and provide more service opportunities for the men of Pi Kappa Phi. Undergraduate chapters continuously support The Ability Experience and are excellent advocates in spreading a message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities.

“This has been an incredible experience, and the people we have met here in Texas have been very welcoming to us and our cause,” Hardee said.

To learn more about The Ability Experience and how to donate, log on at abilityexperience.org

Russell@hcnews.com | 817-573-7066 Ext. 231