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Cycling across America for disability awareness

Johns Creek man pushes through Journey of Hope

Chris Stubel, left, Alex Eplan and Travis Turner, right, bike through to the mountains on their way to Lake Tahoe, Calif. All three boys are members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Georgia Tech. (click for larger version)
July 17, 2013
JOHNS CREEK, Ga.—From the Golden Gate Bridge to Nebraska, Colorado and Georgia, there is nowhere Alex Eplan's bicycle cannot take him on Push America's Journey of Hope.

Push America is a national non-profit organization for people with disabilities, and they raise funds and awareness through events like Journey of Hope. That's a bike ride that cover 32 different states traveling 12,000 miles in all.

Twenty-two-year-old Eplan attends Georgia Tech. and is a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, the owner and operators of Push America.

"When I joined the fraternity at college, one of the big things they talked about was Journey of Hope," Eplan said. "I thought it was really cool and I ended up joining the fraternity. I'm also a cyclist so it was just something I definitely wanted to do."

Journey of Hope is the biggest fundraising event, created by Bruce Rodgers in 1987. Since then the cross-country bicycle trek takes place every year beginning in either San Francisco, Los Angeles or Seattle and ending in Washington, D.C.

Eplan is a part of the northern route, so his ride started June 9 in San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge. Each route has about 25 riders and 10 crew members, and they ride about 75 miles a day.

"It is a huge life-changing experience and an opportunity to grow and discover," Eplan said. "I'm a big supporter of equality. I thought this was just the perfect opportunity to grow myself and to make other people happy."

After they ride each day, they have friendship visits in whichever city they end up in. These visits are usually with organizations or centers for people with disabilities, where the riders make new connections and hand out grant checks.

The grant checks are made up of the money each cyclist has to raise. There is a minimum of $5,000 each, and this year, Eplan said, they raised about $500,000 collectively.

"It was just a no-brainer that I could do what I love," Eplan said. "I could ride bikes every day for two months, and be doing something so great at the same time."

Eplan has been cycling for about 4 to 5 years, and is a member of the Georgia Tech. cycling team.

"So far it has been incredible, and I have actually been so surprised at how easy it is," Eplan said. "Physically it hasn't been easy because, obviously, the biking has been challenging, but it has been so effortless to get up and stay motivated. I remember what I am here for."

For more information about Push America and the Journey of Hope visit www.pushamerica.org.

This article appeared in the July 18 issue of the Johns Creek Herald.

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