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Awareness across America

UC student to cycle cross-country in support of disabilities

by Marisa Whitaker

The idea of bicycling 4,000 miles from the west coast to Washington, D.C. may seem intimidating to most, but for the volunteers of Journey of Hope, it is a rewarding summer endeavor.

Mike McMahon, third-year aerospace engineering student and Pi Kappa Phi member at the University of Cincinnati, will be one of the participants in the six-week Journey of Hope venture this summer. McMahon loves what he is doing with the fraternity. Already, he has helped out with events for people with disabilities and built play units. He says has been blown away by the amazing individuals he meets through these projects.

The organization, Push America, plans this cross-country trip from June 1 to Aug. 10, 2013, as a way for fraternity members of Pi Kappa Phi to get involved in improving lives for people with disabilities. Over the course of their trip, the volunteers will assist local organizations and cultivate awareness in that community.

McMahon is the only UC student participating in the Journey of Hope this year. He has never been an avid bike rider and, with training, is working on biking 55 miles every week.

“The first time I was testing out clip-in pedals, I fell over in the parking lot,” he recalls with a laugh.

Of the three Journey of Hope routes, McMahon hopes he will be a part of the one that starts from Seattle because it goes through Cincinnati. Every morning the group of 30 will cycle until noon and stop in a nearby city for a “friendship visit.” During these visits, the volunteers will host dances for individuals with disabilities and help the local organizations with fundraising. The funds that McMahon raises pre-departure will go to these organizations along the way.

“I’m a little nervous because I don’t know what to expect,” says McMahon. “But mostly I’m just excited.”

Before joining Pi Kappa Phi, McMahon had never worked with disabled individuals. “My friend got me into it, and I saw just how much fun it could be,” he says.

The members of UC Pi Kappa Phi work with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Vineyard Church and Camp Allyn in Batavia. At Vineyard, they oversee and play with the kids at “Breathe Respites” -- giving parents a time to relax and letting the kids have fun together.

“The Respites are a blast,” McMahon says with enthusiasm. “You meet so many great people. There’s a kid who can fold origami with his foot and doesn’t even need instructions. I can’t even fold them with instructions.”

McMahon has also assisted at Camp Allyn building sensory trails for individuals with mental disabilities and at the Vineyard with a prom. “People who want to join Pi Kappa Phi do so because they want to be a part of Push America,” says McMahon.

Push America’s vision is to raise awareness about individuals with disabilities and to mitigate the negative stereotype commonly associated with fraternities.

Marisa Whitaker is a writing intern with UC Magazine.

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— posted January 2013