Cyclists dispense disability awareness

A cycling team is biking through Carson City this month to teach the community about people with disabilities.

Push America, made up of two teams of 35 members each from the national collegiate fraternity Pi Kappa Phi, will travel about 4,000 miles across the country.

The men bike nearly 70 miles a day, rarely stopping to rest. Their non-biking hours are spent performing puppet shows for children, attending dances and social events with disabled people, and providing empathy training for adults.

"All the puppets have a disability of some sort, and this all helps with gaining awareness," said Push spokesman Matthew Brooks. "The members answer any questions that the kids might have."

The empathy training program provides a simulation of what it is like to have a particular disability. It is aimed at assessing personal risky behaviors.

"We tie your arms to a chair and blindfold you and have someone next to you feed you," Brooks said. "It allows you to understand what it might be like."

The group arrives at the Capitol at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. They will be met by Ormsby ARC and receive a proclamation from Gov. Kenny Guinn.

On Friday, they will perform a puppet show at 12:30 p.m. at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada then will hold a dance at 3:30 p.m. with the United Cerebral Palsy organization of Northern Nevada.

"It's really great to see the team members interacting," Brooks said. "They love what they do."

After five days of training and orientation, the group began its two-month trip in San Francisco Saturday. It will end in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 16.

Men were selected to ride with the team based on an extensive application process, Brooks said. They are usually proven community leaders who have experience with serving people with disabilities. They maintain a high grade-point average and must ride 1,000 miles before they begin the cross-country trip.

Each member is also expected to raise $5,000 for his riding expenses and the organization. Brooks said the group hopes to raise more than $350,000. Much of it comes from corporate sponsorships. Local donors include Carson Middle School, the Governor's Office, Carson City Sheriff's Department, Ormsby Arc of Carson City, Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada and the Carson City Rotary Club.

Brooks said Push America is unique.

"Pi Kappa Phi has actually created and founded a separate organization," he said. "Most fraternities and sororities give money to national nonprofit organizations, but Pi Kappa Phi runs this organization as well as deals with people with disabilities."

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity is has 127 chapters nationally. There are no chapters in Nevada.


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