They’re fraternity men on a mission, which is why they’re cycling across the southern part of the country at the hottest time of the year. They’re the participants in the 2017 Journey of Hope, and they’re riding to raise awareness of and funds for people with disabilities. They made two stops in the Parker area June 24 before setting off for Wickenburg early in the morning of June 25.

They’re all members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The Journey of Hope is coordinated by The Ability Experience, the charitable wing of Pi Kappa Phi. Parker has been a regular stop on the Journey of Hope for several years now.

There are actually three teams in this year’s Journey of Hope. The team that visited Parker is the Southern team, which left Long Beach, Calif. June 15. The Northern Team left San Francisco June 11. The Trans-America team, which follows the route of the original Journey of Hope from 1988, left Seattle June 6.

The three teams will meet Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C.

The team made two stops in Parker. They had lunch at the Buckskin Fire Station June 24, and then stayed overnight at the Parker Community/Senior Center. According to their spokesman, Connor Riggs, they had 29 cyclists and eight crew members. To qualify for the Journey, each cyclist had to raise $5,500, which each crew member had to raise $2,300.

The cyclists travel an average of 75 miles per day. Along the way, they make “Friendship Visits” to groups of people with disabilities and the organizations that support them. Riggs said they’ve been to dances and even played a game of wheelchair basketball. He said the high point of the trip so far for him was going to a water park in Las Vegas with young people with disabilities.

“That was a really good time for everyone,” he said.

Riggs, a native of Seattle who attends Oregon State University, said the Journey is tough, and it is especially tough with the current heat wave in the Southwest. He said they were in Bullhead City a few days ago when the temperature hit 124 degrees, making it the hot spot of the nation.

“No one on the team has experienced anything like this,” Riggs said of the heat.

The heat was the main reason the team tried to do most of its cycling in the early morning hours. They had originally planned to leave Parker at 6 a.m., but they changed that to 5 a.m. due to the high temperatures in the weather forecast. Riggs said they knew they had about seven hours of cycling ahead of them to get to Wickenburg.

Riggs said the support crews follow the cyclists closely, and they have plenty of water and sports drinks on hand.

Despite the journey being tough, Riggs said lasting friendships are formed and the group becomes a team as the Journey rolls along. They also get to see the country and meet many people along the way. Given the cause they are supporting, they believe it’s worth it.

“This is the most impactful summer I’ve ever had,” Riggs said.

To learn more about the Journey of Hope, or to make a donation, go to www.theabilityexperience.org.

Pi Kappa Phi is a nationwide fraternity of 160 chapters in 43 states and the District of Columbia. They have 100,000 members. Their headquarters is in Charlotte, N.C.

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