Push America pushing on

Deputy Attorney General Jill Drake walked across the street to the state Capitol Thursday afternoon to find a long-lost relative among the waves of cyclists rolling towards the Capitol steps.

Jeffrey Harding of Lincoln, Neb., is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and one of the cyclists of the Push America group that came through town Thursday.

The second cousins haven't seen each other since they were children.

Drake took a lunch break from her conservation work for the surprise visit.

"I haven't seen him in 10 years," Drake said. "He didn't know who I was."

When she told him she was the deputy attorney general, he wasn't impressed.

"(Jeff) thought it sounded boring," Drake said. "So I told him it wasn't as boring as riding a bike across America."

In its 15th year, the tour is expected to raise more than $350,000 through both team member fund-raising and corporate sponsors.

Harding was a part of the Journey of Hope, two teams of 35 Pi Kappa Phi fraternity undergraduates and alumni representing 32 colleges and universities nationwide.

The cyclists have traveled from 20 different states to raise money for people with disabilities.

Before riding their first mile, each cyclist raised at least $5,000 on behalf of people with disabilities.

Each team member has committed 63 days to ride a bicycle from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

During the team's 3,900-mile journey, participants will ride through 100 cities. They travel an average of 70 miles a day.

This is the last time the group will see each other until the end of their trip.

Next stop is Fallon, where the group will split, with one group going to Hawthorne to begin a southern route and one continuing to Austin on the northern route to Washington, D.C.

Push America, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has raised more than $8 million since the organization's founding from members of Pi Kappa Phi.

Last year, undergraduates raised more than $210,000 to benefit the organization.

Joseph Goyhenetche, Zachary Lauritzen and Brett Parker plan to enjoy their day off in Carson City today.

According to the three men, the team climbed 11,000 feet days earlier when they rode through Kirkwood in a pace-climbing tire-to-tire formation to minimize wind resistance.

Robert Simola is the vocational programs supervisor for Ormsby ARC, an organization that works for people with developmental disabilities.

"This is exciting for these guys," Simola said. "Because they know why these guys are here."

Brian Catlett is the constituent services director for the Governor's Office.

Catlett read a proclamation and handed out Nevada flag pins and coins.

Mike Askew is the transportation director for Ormsby ARC and drove the disabled children to the Capitol.

"I brought over 13, but there are 18 in the whole group, and they're a good group of people," Askew said.

People Understanding the Severely Handicapped became Push America when it dropped the acronym PUSH in 1992.


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