Chase Steigers, a junior at the University of Washington and a graduate of Woodinville High School, will wake up at 5 a.m. every morning for two months this summer.
Steigers, with other members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, will ride his bike across the country to raise money and awareness for people with mental and physical disabilities. After waking up early in the morning, the team of fraternity members will ride 70 to 100 miles per day, then arrive in a new city for a “friendship visit,” in which they’ll meet with kids with disabilities, play games like wheelchair basketball and present each organization with a check.
Steigers hopes to change people’s perceptions of people with disabilities and show that disabled people can still accomplish many things in their own ways.
“People with disabilities face many challenges everyday that you and I cannot imagine,” he wrote on his website. “But one of the most tragic barriers is a lack of understanding by our society. A simple message of empathy and acceptance is all it takes to break down this barrier, and I have committed myself to spreading this message this summer.”
Steigers’ group, with about 25 cyclists, will start from Long Beach, Calif. at the beginning of June and arrive in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of August. He’s trying to raise $7,000, and he’s more than halfway there with $4,160 raised so far.
The money goes to Push America, the official nonprofit organization of Pi Kappa Phi. Push America’s main event is the Journey of Hope bike ride that Steigers will complete. At every stop of the cycling event, the cyclists give a grant to an organization that serves people with disabilities so it can provide new equipment or upgrade its facilities.
“We’re the only fraternity that owns and operates its own philanthropy ... It was a big reason why I joined my fraternity,” Steigers said. His first weekend volunteering with Push America “changed my perspective on the fraternity, what I want to do in my life and how I want to help others.”
He expects the summer bike ride will test him “physically, mentally and spiritually” — not least because he’ll be riding through southern states in the summer. He and other Pi Kappa Phi members are training for the ride, but he didn’t have much cycling experience before.
“I have ridden from Portland to Seattle, but that’s about it as far as cycling,” Steigers said.
The bikers will have a support crew following them in vans, to fix flat tires or treat injuries. They’ll spend the nights in high school gyms and YMCAs across the country.
All the money raised will go to Push America. Steigers and the other cyclists buy their own bikes and gear.
“It’s a great opportunity to go across America and see the whole country in a unique way,” Steigers said. He added, “As much as we’re giving back, we’re receiving almost more.”
To help Steigers reach his fundraising goal for Push America, donate at ipush.convio.net/goto/chasesteigers, or search for “Chase Steigers Journey of Hope Push America.”