by Leah Jackson
Trace Anthon, a member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at Northwestern State University, is participating in the Journey of Hope, a cross-country cycling trek that raises money and awareness for projects that serve people with disabilities. The event is a project of the national fraternity’s philanthropy, The Ability Experience.
Each year a group of highly dedicated Pi Kapps from around the country make a commitment to challenge themselves to accomplish more than they ever have, step into the unknown and take part in the best summer of their lives.
This year, with two routes kicking off on the West Coast, both teams are spending the summer crossing the country over a combined 8,000 miles, with an arrival at the Capitol Lawn in Washington, D.C., to mark the end of the life-changing event. Along the way, the team spreads the message of disability awareness through local media and makes stops at partner organizations to deliver joy to friends from the disability community.
“Even though our mission is to help others, this trip has taught me plenty about initiative, assertiveness and compassion. This event churns out servant leaders and I’m glad to be the next one,” Anthon said.
Anthon, a senior Liberal Arts major with a concentration in Philosophy Politics and Economics from Hammond, is serving as a crew member for the Journey of Hope North team.
“I haven’t really left Louisiana for most of my life, so it’s good seeing the overwhelming beauty that the U.S. has to offer. I never thought I would see so many mountains, deserts, and cities in the span of a few months. My favorite city would probably be Grand Island, Nebraska. The state doesn’t have the most landmarks, but we had multiple friendship visits in the city and they welcomed us with the most open arms.”
After the team completes each day’s ride, which average 75 miles, the Pi Kapps are dancing, playing games or leading campfire songs at a friendship visit with a local group that supports people with disabilities. For many of the partner organizations, the team’s arrival each year is something folks anticipate like a holiday.
Journey of Hope’s uniqueness also draws the attention of local media in markets across the county. This enables The Ability Experience to spread a message of awareness and inclusion everywhere and showcase partner organizations to broader audiences than they could on their own. Teams also provide additional support to dozens of organizations through grants each year.
“The deciding factor in me joining Pi Kappa Phi was the opportunity to participate in the Journey of Hope for its mission of empowering people in the disability community. I knew how the world could treat somebody for being different, so I wanted to put a little love into the world. But when I went out into that world I found people who are loving, that care and who give it their all every day. That pushes us to go on.”
Last year, the Journey of Hope raised more than $320,000 toward these efforts.
Anthon and his teammates set out from San Francisco on June 11 and are set to arrive in Washington, D.C., on August 13. We will update when available.
“If there’s anything I wanted people to know anything about my experience working with the Ability Experience, it would be that it has been and probably will be the most impactful and emotional thing I’ll ever do.”
He will become the 15th initiate of the Beta Omicron Chapter to complete the Journey of Hope since 2001.