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Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Going the distance: Lawrence cyclist treks cross country for personal cause

Jeff Serbus trains for the Journey of Hope, a cross-country trek to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities.

Jeff Serbus trains for the Journey of Hope, a cross-country trek to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities.

July 13, 2010

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Bicyclists and Pi Kappa Phi members, from left to right, Stefan Wilkes, Jeff Serbus, Brian Wolfman and Tucker Harrison, pause at a mountain summit on an early leg of their Journey of Hope trip.

Bicyclists and Pi Kappa Phi members, from left to right, Stefan Wilkes, Jeff Serbus, Brian Wolfman and Tucker Harrison, pause at a mountain summit on an early leg of their Journey of Hope trip.

FOLLOW THE TREK

If you would like to follow Jeff Serbus on his ride or donate to Push America, go to www.myjoh.org.

After riding a bicycle 1,700 miles across the country, with an additional 2,300 miles to go, Jeff Serbus has every right to complain.

He’s had a total of three days off the bike since leaving San Francisco on June 17, his bicycle seat leaves a lot to be desired, he sleeps at night on church basement floors, and, still, he’s upbeat.

“I love it out here,” he says, from an overnight stop in McCook, Neb.

Serbus, 28, a Free State High School and Kansas University graduate, is on the Journey of Hope, an annual fundraising trek sponsored by the Push America program of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

“We were founded in 1977, originally as an organization that built accessible play units for children with disabilities,” says Adam Phillips, director of marketing and public relations for Push America. “As the years went on, we expanded our reach.”

In 1987, Bruce Rodgers, then a Pi Kapp at Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.), decided to ride his bike across the country by himself to raise awareness for all people with disabilities.

“He was the inspiration for Journey of Hope, which started the next year,” Phillips says.

This summer, Serbus cycles with one of three teams — each with 26 cyclists and a crew of five — wending their way across country. Participating members are asked to meet a fundraising minimum of $5,000 for cyclists and $2,500 for crew members. Serbus has raised $5,500 so far.

“I was on the crew in 2002,” Serbus recalls. “One of the guys who drove the van and brought all the water and the stuff from place to place. Originally, I just did it as a way to see the country. But, after that, I started getting involved working with people with disabilities. The next summer, I worked at Camp Sunnyside in Des Moines, an Easter Seals camp, and just had a great time. I’m doing the ride for the people I met there.”

Serbus also met a fellow camp counselor, Laura, who would later become his wife. She returned to work at the camp this summer and will reunite with her husband when his team rides into town in the next week or so on a “friendship visit,” the outreach component of the Journey of Hope.

“Along the way, we stop in places that serve people with disabilities. If we can, we help out, work with their clients. Sometimes, they’ll have dances and things. Most of the time, we’ll give the facility a grant — like $750 — and we can actually see where the money is going. It makes it a lot more personal.”

“It will be great to see Camp Sunnyside and Laura,” Serbus says. “And it’s almost our sixth anniversary, so we can work a little romance into the trip.”

Though Serbus downplays it, the cross-country trek has been grueling. On one day, the team logged 95 miles, crossing not one, but three mountain passes.

“It was going into Lake Tahoe, Calif.,” Serbus remembers. “It was a combination of extreme elevations and extreme distance, which made it a really bad day. It was early in the trip, too, and most of us weren’t used to the really long rides. I felt like I had the flu the next day.”

And though it’s a long road stretching out before him (the team doesn’t arrive at the finish line in Washington, D.C., until Aug. 14), Serbus remains gung-ho.

“Every day is a new experience, and I love it. The main problem is getting used to that seat,” he adds. “I’d like to have something more comfortable.”

Comments

jt08 4 years, 5 months ago

Have a great time Jeff. Proud to be a Pi Kapp!

serbus 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't expect any praise for this ride, I'm just trying to get out there and help people. Maybe you'd like this story better: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/may....

For the rest of you that also want to help people, and not complain about who is or was a member of what organization, you can donate to help me improve the lives of millions of Americans by making a donation at http://www.myjoh.org/, or forward the address on to someone who might like to.

Cheers, -Jeff Serbus

parrothead8 4 years, 5 months ago

Wow, Seamus. In a world full of disturbing and heartbreaking news stories, you complain about one detailing how someone is raising money to help disabled people. I'm sure this news story won't raise awareness, right? And I'm sure it won't help Jeff to raise more money, will it?

You're a deeply unhappy person, aren't you? Get over it.

serbus 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for reminding me that a lot of people might not know how much we actually help people with disabilities. To give everyone an idea, the Journey of Hope has already collectively raised over a half a million dollars this year for people with disabilities. Along the way, we give this money out in the form of grants to places that serve people with disabilities. Last year 78 grants were given. On top of this, the money is also used to fund other building projects run by push America, and last year alone, we saved organizations all over the USA over $1.3 million dollars in man-hours, not to even mention the materials that we donated. Our other goal is to spread awareness, by teaching people, and in particular children about disabilities that people may have and how to interact with people who have them. Again in 2009 we reached over 60 million people, and plan to top that this year.

In the current struggling state economies funding for people with disabilities is one of the first places to take the cut, so our mission has become more important now than ever before. If you want to help, please take a look at my website at http://www.myjoh.org. We are always looking for support, even after the ride is over.

Cheers, -Jeff

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