Nick Horning, Nick Fausnight and Ryan Brown will join 97 other college students over the next several weeks in a cross-country journey designed to send a message of hope to people with disabilities.
“A simple message of empathy, rather than sympathy, and acceptance is all it takes to break down the barrier of ignorance,” said Horning, 21, of Brimfield Township.
A University of Toledo student who just finished his junior year, Horning will ride his bike from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., as part of Push America.
“My goal is to spread awareness to look at one’s ability, rather than disability,” he said.
The men are taking part in Push America’s Journey of Hope. The entire group of 100 students hopes to raise $650,000 as they reach out across the country, visiting centers and people with disabilities along the way.
Fausnight, a 20-year-old from North Canton who is entering his junior year at Ohio State, also will be part of the crew supporting riders going from San Francisco to Washington. Brown, also 20 and entering his senior year at the University of Dayton, will be a member of the support team for riders taking a southern route from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington.
Push America is the only philanthropic endeavor organized, started and maintained by a Greek organization, spokesman Adam Phillips said. It is the philanthropic arm of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, founded in 1977.
Since 1988, Push America has raised more than $15 million to help people with disabilities, with 1,500 men taking part in various events.
Each of the local participants are members of Pi Kappa Phi on their campuses.
Fausnight, a 2012 graduate of Hoover High School, is a logistics major at OSU.
“I decided to take part in this because I saw an opportunity for me to truly make an impact on people’s lives,” he said.
Fausnight said he hopes to raise more than $2,500.
“The chance to go across the country and meet these amazing people and bring smiles to their faces really does seem like a perfect summer for me,” he said.
Brown, a 2011 graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School and an operations management and accounting major at Dayton, said he chose to be part of Push America in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others, rather than sitting in an office.
“Working with people with disabilities is something I’m passionate about and have always enjoyed,” said Brown, who hopes to raise $3,000 during the event. “Many of the most genuine, caring and inspirational people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have disabilities, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to build relationships with them.”
As part of the crew, Fausnight will make sure the cyclists get where they need to be, repair bikes and help with logistics of the trip. Brown, who is president of Dayton’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter, will drive a support van and manage logistics and corporate sponsorships for his team.
Horning, a 2011 graduate of Archbishop Hoban High School, is an exercise science major who hopes to continue his education after Toledo to become a physician assistant. He hopes to raise $10,000 toward the $650,000 goal.
“The main point of the event is fundraising and awareness of people with disabilities,” said Horning, who played football, baseball and lacrosse at Hoban.
He said he volunteered with SumFun for three years.
“I committed a lot of time serving people with disabilities” in high school, Horning said. “I decided I would not stop. My decision to join Pi Kappa Phi was partly based on this promise because of how service-oriented it is. By participating in the largest fraternal fundraising and awareness event of its kind, I will be able to say, ‘I kept that promise.’ ”
The route from San Francisco to Washington departs Sunday and will cover 4,000 miles before reaching the nation’s capital Aug. 2. The group will travel through Ohio, stopping in Toledo on July 22; Sandusky, July 23; Cleveland, July 24-25; and Niles, July 26.
The southern route leaves Long Beach on June 6. A third route leaves Seattle today. Both are scheduled to arrive in Washington on Aug. 2.
A total of 70 cyclists and 30 crew members take part in the three routes.
For more on Push America, go to www.pushamerica.org.