NEW PALESTINE — It’s a 16-day, 800-mile bicycle journey across the sunshine state in May called Gear Up Florida.
The fundraising event hosted by Push America was founded by Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity in 1977, designed to build leaders by serving people with disabilities.
While it will be a fun bicycle riding adventure, 2007 New Palestine High School graduate Kevin Albrecht said it will also be lots of hard work.
Albrecht, a 2011 Purdue University graduate will be meeting 35 other Pi Kappa Phi’s from universities across the country on May 8 in Miami to take off on the ride that is scheduled to wrap up May 24 in Tallahassee. They hope to raise funds and awareness on behalf of people with disabilities.
“I did this before, in the summer of 2011,” Albrecht said. “As a rededication to my fraternity and what we stand for as far as the philanthropic side, I wanted to do it again.”
Albrecht and his fellow riders will be riding at least 70 miles a day crossing the state of Florida. But, after they finish their ride for the day, that's when he said the real journey begins.
“Not only will be raising money for people who need it, but the coolest part about the trip is at least once or sometimes twice a day we get to stop and visit with special needs organizations.”
Not only will the riders take the time to say hello to those with special needs, Albrecht says they actually become involved.
“We’ll hang out and sometimes we’ll play wheelchair basketball or other games,” he said. “It can really send chills down your spine because they can give you so much energy even after you’ve been riding for 70 or 75 miles that day.”
The riders will officially start their ride Saturday, May 10, in Miami and make stops at places such as Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville and Jacksonville en route to Tallahassee. In addition to meeting with special needs groups after their rides, they will also be presenting grants to many of the organizations with whom they are visiting.
“It is just what we will do on a daily basis,” he said. “It really puts things in perspective.”
He said it’s humbling to to have the opportunity to hang out with people with disabilities and bring some joy to their lives.
Albrecht, a health care administrator at Willow Crossing in Columbus, Ind., said it’s important to take the time to step up for others, particularly for those people who have been given so much.
“I’m 25-years-old now and have a 10-month-old at home, but hanging out with special needs kids they put it all in perspective for you,” he said. “They’d give anything to be able to ride a bike like we can do.”
Push America has been able to raise an estimated $15 million since its establishment. Albrecht said the overall team goal this year is to raise $110,000 for those with special needs. While he’s close to his individual goal of $3,000 he’d like to help out the team cause.
For more information or to donate, visit pushamerica.org and select the events tab. Or contact Albrecht at (317) 750-8232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.