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Journey of Hope offers fraternity brothers the chance to change lives, including their own

Journey of HopeWes Clarkson says a 4,000-mile cycling tour serving people with disabilities across the U.S. transformed his life.

On the day he left to begin a summer-long cycling and service tour across the United States, Westley Clarkson created a blog to document his journey. The first post read:

"We live in a big world.  There is so much to see and do on this earth and so little time to do it.  Often times I will pass up on an opportunity to do something (even the littlest things), and use the excuse, 'I have my whole life to do that.'  I am starting to realize that life is way too short and that I must take advantage of every opportunity to experience something new."

After traveling 4,000-miles between San Francisco and Washington, D.C., "Wes" Clarkson could fill a book with memories. Together with fraternity brother Andrew Chinn he completed the Journey of Hope, organized by Push America, the national philanthrophy of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity.

The two were inspired to participate after hearing about other fraternity brothers' trip back in summer 2009.  Joey Haynes and Eric Galdo cycled, and Justin Lafreniere was a crew member and together they raised almost $14,000 for Push America. They returned to Queens determined to inspire fellow fraternity brothers to complete the trip this summer and Clarkson and Chinn eagerly signed up.

Their year of training before the trip and hard work during the journey did not disappoint.

From Clarkson's blog:

"At first I had a really hard time cycling long distances, up mountains, through severe weather, etc.  It got to the point where I began to question what in the world I was doing on this cycling trip and whether or not it was even worth it.  I was broken down and beaten up but something began to happen that made me realize how important the Journey of Hope is... We started going to friendship visits with organizations that support people with disabilities.  The people I met were some of the happiest, optimistic people I have ever encountered in my entire life.  We have a saying on the Journey of Hope that rings true at every friendship visit: 'The only disability in the world is a bad attitude.'

I have learned how important it is to treasure everything you have in life, especially the little things you don't normally think about.  Sometimes when I am riding I am miserable.  It is hot, there are headwinds that push me back, and I am often very tired.  Whenever I start thinking about how hard cycling is, I put things in perspective; I could be suffering on the bike or I could be sitting in a wheelchair looking at the stairs in my house that I will never be able to climb. 

I never thought about how blessed I am to have been born healthy until the Journey of Hope.  I value my life so much more now that I realize how fortunate I am." 


For details about the Journey of Hope, visit www.pushamerica.org.
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