Courtesy photoSome 30 college students set out from the Golden Gate Bridge early Sunday on the first leg of a 4

Courtesy photoSome 30 college students set out from the Golden Gate Bridge early Sunday on the first leg of a 4

Cyclists ride for disability awareness

Some 30 college students set out from the Golden Gate Bridge early Sunday on the first leg of a 4,000-mile cross-country bicycle trip to raise awareness and money for people with disabilities.

Along the way, the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers, from colleges throughout the country, will visit organizations that work with the disabled. The group, known as Push America, said it has raised about $600,000 this year, the 25th anniversary of the Journey of Hope ride.

For 24-year-old Ricky Rascon, who completed his 3,897-mile ride in 2009, the trip benefits not only the groups it supports, but also the young cyclists.

“It was an awesome trip,” Rascon said. “I learned a lot about people with disabilities, in general. It was a big eye-opener for me.”

The native of Aztec, N.M., has a father who is paraplegic and has been in a wheelchair since his 30s.

“That kind of motivated me personally to do the trip,” Rascon said. This year, Rascon is helping organize and handle public relations for the event.

After Sunday’s ride from San Francisco to Napa, the group will head to Sacramento, then across Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, averaging about 75 miles a day until they hit the finish line in Washington, D.C. Post-ride events typically include participation in sporting events such as wheelchair basketball, “friendship visits” with local disability support groups, and educational events with children.

The bicyclists plan to reach the nation’s capital in early August.

The Journey of Hope, which began with just one cross-country rider in 1987, has since expanded to three separate rides, two beginning in San Francisco and one in Seattle, all aiming to spread “a message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities,” according to the group’s website.

To donate, visit www.pushamerica.org.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsbicycleLocalSan Francisco

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