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Published: Monday, 7/8/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Sylvania native pedals across America

Journey of Hope raises funds for people with disabilities

BY ROSA NGUYEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michael McMahon holds Camela, a girl he met during a friendship visit at  Ashley House, an organization in Enumclaw, Wash., that helps children with disabilities lead normal lives. Michael McMahon holds Camela, a girl he met during a friendship visit at Ashley House, an organization in Enumclaw, Wash., that helps children with disabilities lead normal lives.
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When Sylvania native Michael McMahon’s cross-country odyssey led him to Boulder, Colo., he and his teammates were not alone.

The morning of July 1 was a “unique” one, in the words of Mr. McMahon, 21.

Starting at 6:45 a.m., Mr. McMahon and his fellow cyclists rode with Bruce Rogers, co-founder and managing director of the Denver-based private equity firm KRG Capital Partners.

Twenty-six years ago, Mr. Rogers embarked on a one-man journey across the nation, cycling from state to state to raise money for Push America — a nonprofit organization under the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity that serves people with disabilities.

Mr. Rogers’ landmark ride inspired the Journey of Hope, which a Bowling Green State University student created in 1988.

Evolving into three trans-American courses, the annual event raises money for Push America.

Today, on Day 34 of his cross-country trip, Mr. McMahon will bike about 100 miles before reaching Garden City, Kan. He has completed more than half of his journey across America, having traveled roughly 2,285 miles from his starting point in Seattle.

Mr. McMahon is the first Pi Kappa Phi member from the University of Cincinnati to embark on the Journey of Hope. Of approximately 120 applicants, he is one of about 70 cyclists who made the cut, said Adam Phillips, director of marketing and public relations at Push America.

A third-year aerospace engineering student, Mr. McMahon also is the president of the University of Cincinnati's Engineers Without Borders, which is reconstructing the Kingigoro primary school in Burere, Tanzania, and has designed water distribution systems in Nyambogo, Tanzania, and Otho Abwao, Kenya.

He was not involved in cycling until he applied for Journey of Hope. To train for the event, the dedicated Pi Kappa Phi member rode 800 miles across trails in Cincinnati and Toledo.

Mr. McMahon could choose from three teams: Journey of Hope TransAmerica, which departed from Seattle on June 5; Journey of Hope North, which started from San Francisco on June 9, and Journey of Hope South, which left Los Angeles on June 15. All three teams will conclude their journeys Aug. 10 when they meet on the lawn at the Capitol in Washington, Mr. McMahon said.

The TransAmerica route is the longest, covering over 4,250 miles from Seattle to Washington. The route snakes through the Idaho Panhandle, across Montana and Wyoming, the Great Plains and Midwest, and then on to Virginia.

“I chose TransAmerica because most of my donors are in Cincinnati,” Mr. McMahon said. “I wanted to go through Cincinnati to give them the attention they deserve.”

Mr. McMahon rides in a team of 19 cyclists and eight crew members, each of which are members of Pi Kappa Phi. They ride an average of 87 miles a day, Mr. McMahon said.

“Time has been flying. The time on the bike is awesome,” Mr. McMahon said. “But the time off the bike is even more awesome.”

After each team finishes its day of riding, team members participate in “friendship visits,” working with local organizations to interact with people with disabilities. Activities include dances, dinners, and adaptive sports, such as wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, cycling, and kayaking.

The TransAmerica team meets organizations such as Teton Adaptive Sports, a group that makes sports available to handicapped people, and The Arc, a national organization that provides advocacy and support programs for the developmentally disabled.

Taylor Thompson, the public relations coordinator traveling with the TransAmerica crew, estimated the team will participate in 55 to 60 friendship visits by the end of its journey.

“The friendship visits put things in perspective for us,” Mr. McMahon said. “... When we don’t have those, the idea is less fresh in your mind — the friendship visits and your teammates get you through the day.”

According to Push America CEO Chad Coltrane, Journey of Hope is the largest fundraiser for Push America. Team members must raise at least $5,500 in order to participate.

Mr. McMahon has raised $5,956.37, and will continue to work up to his $7,000 goal as the summer progresses.

Push America hopes to raise a total of $650,000 through this year’s Journey of Hope. Team members have already raised $502,480.38.

The TransAmerica team will make its next stop Tuesday in Dodge City, Kan. Mr. McMahon expects to reach Cincinnati on July 27.

To make an online donation, go on Mr. McMahon’s page at ​support.pushamerica.org/​goto/​MikeMcMahon

Contact Rosa Nguyen at: rnguyen@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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