While many other Miami University students spent their summer hunched over desks or counters working jobs or internships, junior Calvin Colby spent his hunched over the handlebars of a bike, winding his way across the country.
Colby, a psychology and quantitative economics major, spent two and a half months this summer riding his bike from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C., averaging about 75 or 80 miles a day. Along with the other 22 students on the trip, he would wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. and ride into the afternoon, only stopping to eat.
A lot of the days once the group finished riding, they would have friendship visits, meeting with children or adults with physical or mental disabilities at community centers along the route.
Colby completed the trip, titled the Journey of Hope, for The Ability Experience, the national philanthropy of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.
“The mission of The Ability Experience is to create experiences for those living with disabilities who otherwise would not have them,” said Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropy chair John Hayes.
Colby said the hours of biking were brutal at first but slowly got easier. When he began preparing for the trip, it had been about five years since he had been on a bike. At the end of his training, he was riding dozens of miles at a time.
During the trip, Colby kept going and pushing himself.
“Something we talk about is that we can get off the bike, but the people that we work with, a lot of times, they can’t just stop having a disability,” Colby said. “Riding is tough, but it’s not as hard as the struggles that people with disabilities face on a daily basis.”
That was one of the main goals of the trip — to show the students what it’s like to have a disability and to expose them to different types of experiences.
“[It’s about] giving back and doing what you can for others, stepping outside your comfort zone and seeing what the world looks like maybe from a different perspective,” Colby said.
The activities during the friendship visits varied, and the group met people of various ages and types of disabilities. Sometimes, they would help with fundraising events or complete tasks that the coordinators asked them to. Other times, they would play games or have dinner and talk.
One person who stood out to Colby and many of the other students on the trip was a middle-aged man in St. Louis, Missouri. He used to be in a fraternity and dove into a lake when he was younger, hitting his head.
He became paralyzed from the neck down, but thanks to the help of a special machine, he lives completely on his own. The man has a breathing device that moves his wheelchair in different directions depending on how he blows into it.
“A lot of us remembered him because just the outlook he had on life was pretty cool,” Colby said. “Sometimes your situation in life isn’t the greatest, but you have to make it work.”
For those who want to be involved with The Ability Experience who might not be able to complete the Journey of Hope bike ride, Pi Kappa Phi also goes to Bridgeport Elementary School in Hamilton each Friday afternoon to play games with students from their special needs classroom. For those interested in donating to The Ability Experience, gifts can be given online or by emailing email@example.com.