Student to bike across country, raise money for charity

Reporter and Reporter

Junior Blake Williams is planning to ride his bike from San Francisco to Washington D.C. this summer along with other volunteers for “Push America,” in order to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities.

It is the organization’s vision to raise the level of awareness students have about people with disabilities, Williams said.

Williams, who has two cousins with autism, hopes his efforts can influence others and allow them to believe that people with disabilities are no different than people without disabilities. He will ride 65 to 70 miles a day on average as part of “Journey of Hope.”

Journey of Hope is the largest fraternal fundraising and awareness event, covering 32 different states and cycling more than 12,000 miles, said Williams, a member of Pi Kappa Phi. However, in order to participate each rider must first raise $5,500 in order to go on the trip.

“The way I raise money is by sending letters to businesses or corporations,” Williams said. “I also do fundraising … right now I raised about $2,000 … I set myself a goal to raise $7,000 … in order to give more. Last year, the event raised $550,000.”

This is about educating those around us about the abilities of people with disabilities and treating them with the respect that should be given to everyone, he said.

“People like to say, ‘that kid with Down syndrome,’ but he’s a person before the disability,” Williams said.

He had previously volunteered in “Gear up Florida,” also part of Push America. It has the same premise as Journey of Hope, but takes two weeks, unlike Journey of Hope which takes about two months.

“How many people can say that they rode across the United States of America on a bicycle?” Williams said.

In addition to riding their bikes, volunteers will be stopping by several organizations and camps for people with disabilities and participate in activities with them such as painting or bowling.

“In my previous trip, we went bowling with one organization and I suck at bowling … some of these kids were absolutely amazing … they were bowling over 200s every time,” Williams said.

The nonprofit organization will also be handing out grants to those organizations, he said.

Riders will also be attending elementary schools along the way where they plan to teach bike safety to children. They also plan to spend their nights at high school gyms, YMCAs or churches, Williams said.

There are three different routes for Journey of Hope, all starting May 30. Each route goes to different areas along the US and all members meet at Washington D.C. in August, he said.

Williams hopes to do the north route that arches the northern part of the U.S., starting from San Francisco and ending in Washington D.C.

In order to physically prepare for his trip, Williams started training this past fall and rode his bike 500 miles total.

“I hope to get 1,200 miles in before the event because that would be a good base,” he said.

Anna Williams, Blake’s mother, said this journey is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the country while making a difference.

“This is about spreading the message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities,” she said.

Junior Alex Kocab, Williams’ friend, said this will be a great experience for him and is a real eye opener to see how good we have it.

“We shouldn’t take anything for granted … I hope this helps raise awareness,” Kocab said.