Gas prices have already started rising, but one Troy student won’t have to worry about them at all during his cross-country trek this summer, as he will be traveling from the West Coast to the East on a bicycle.
Ben Barnett, a sophomore biomedical sciences major from Warrior, will be cycling for charity as he starts in Long Beach, California, and makes his way to Washington, D.C.
Barnett, president of Pi Kappa Phi, is participating in the Journey of Hope, an event through his fraternity’s philanthropy, the Ability Experience.
“We work with people with severe disabilities,” said Barnett.
According to the Ability Experience’s website, the purpose of the philanthropy is to “create a community, one relationship at a time, where the abilities of all people are recognized and valued.”
The Journey of Hope will be over two months of cycling an average of 60 to 80 miles a day. There are two routes, and Barnett hopes to be put on the southern one, going through Alabama and Georgia and lasting about 63 days.
In order to participate, each cyclist is expected to raise a minimum of $5,500. Barnett started fundraising two weeks ago and has so far earned $775, with plans to visit more businesses in the coming weeks to ask for support.
In turn, the room and board will be taken care of during the trip.
“They’ve already gotten everything ready for us,” Barnett said. “We’re staying in an Indian reservation at some point, and we’re going to stay in churches, gyms, wherever.”
Along the way, the cyclists will be a part of what they call “friendship visits,” where the local community comes to visit. Families with children who have disabilities are especially invited.
“It’s really cool,” Barnett said. “To them this is the world — you get to see their eyes light up, and they don’t have to feel different. They can just have fun.”
For Barnett, the trip has a personal significance as well.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Kristin, my fiancee, has a younger brother who was diagnosed with epilepsy in his young teens.”
Since this diagnosis, her brother has undergone four surgeries, during which portions of his brain have been removed. Barnett said that the strength he has seen in him has been inspiring.
“I want to spread that hope to others,” he said. “I want people to know that there is someone out there who thinks about them and prays for them.”
If Barnett is able to travel the southern route, he will be able to visit Kristin’s brother during the trip.
Barnett will be investing a lot in the trip, physically and personally.
For now, he has physical training every morning, while going to the gym on his own and riding an average of 20 miles a day. The terrain will sometimes be difficult, getting steep at times, while the temperatures will probably reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit some days, as they will be riding in the middle of the summer.
“I’m also getting married, and then two weeks later I’m leaving (for the bike ride), so that’s going to be difficult,” he said.
But he said the trip is worth the hours of training and fundraising, as well as the months he will spend away from his then-wife.
“I’m just glad I have the ability to go and do it,” he said.
Barnett is the only Troy Pi Kappa Phi member to participate this year, but he is encouraging others to participate, and believes that three will go next year. He also hopes to start a cycling club.
“(You have) got to leave it better than you found it,” he said.
If anyone wishes to donate on behalf of the cause, his donation page can be found at http://support.abilityexperience.org/goto/benbarnett_JOH.