Monthly Archive for May, 2008

Suncoast News covers Gear Up Florida!

Disability awareness team rides their bikes through Suncoast

Click on the link to see the video clip shown on ABC 7 local news while we were in Sarasota!


Day 7 Clearwater

Day 7
May 21, 2008
Clearwater, FL
Written by Brian Kirsch
Alpha Theta
Michigan State University

The team enjoyed its first really relaxing and enjoyable ride with plenty of time allotted for our arrival in Clearwater. At 5:30am, the team awoke after a very entertaining stay at the Sarasota YMCA to a breakfast of cereal, bananas, and bagels curbside before departing for our ride.

Following the first 30 miles of the trip, the team enjoyed a nice 14 mile break at the Skyway Bridge. The most beautiful and scenic portion of our entire trip was viewed at this point and none of the cyclists or crew hesitated to snap a picture. The final portion of our ride saw a lot of scenic stops for the cyclists to take a few more pictures within the bike friendly small beach communities before arriving at lodging.

Our lodging for the night was hosted at Clearwater Sailability, located directly on the water. The staff graciously allowed the team to relax on sailboats and a few of the guys even got to kayak. The Sailability center proudly offers wheelchair accessible boats, including one sailboat that has a capacity of 6,000 pounds and can hold up to six wheelchairs.

Our delicious dinner was sponsored at Shell’s later in the evening following some much needed downtime spent on the beach. Having a great seafood meal right on the beach really hit the spot, and the team even got a glance of Hulk Hogan’s wife Linda on the way out! Our shortest ride is tomorrow, and the team is anticipating the easier ride after a bit of relaxation and anticipation for our first day off!

I would personally like to thank my family – for their support and love, my chapter brothers back at Michigan State – I miss all of you guys and wish you were here with myself and John Edwards on this trip, my sponsors and friends at home – thank you for believing in me and the Push America organization, and lastly to all my newfound brothers from the trip – this trip has been the ultimate experience already and it has been an honor and privilege to have grown closer to you all. God bless Pi Kappa Phi.


Day 6 Sarasota

Day 6
May 20, 2008
Sarasota, FL
Written by Dane Klett
Theta Xi
Arizona State University

Woke up for the third day in a row at 5:30 am. This part is getting a bit tiring. Ride started off very well with a nice tail wind to carry us through most of the morning. We made a left turn and it was all down hill from there. We faced a very strong head wind for the next 30 miles. It was a team effort, but we ended up finishing the day strong. We arrived in our stage-up area at the Sarasota Baptist Church. Here we devoured our chips and sandwiches, and luckily we had enough time to witness two of our teammates, Steve and John, participate in a pepper eating contest.

After lunch we prepared for our arrival at the Oak Park School. As we were preparing to leave we finally experienced a fabled afternoon Florida shower. By the time we arrived at the school we were soaked from head-to-toe. After arrival we performed our first Kids on the Block puppet show, and ended up making the evening news. While at Oak Park School we toured their campus, and learned that they are one of the top schools in the country for school age children with disabilities, and that parents from all over the United States move to Sarasota just so their child can attend the school. After touring the campus, we said our goodbyes and headed for the Sarasota YMCA.

At the Sarasota YMCA we were given the opportunity to use most of their facilities. I was especially thrilled with the Cubs game on the movie screen. Later that night we had a sponsored dinner donated by Matt Robbins, a Pi Alpha from the Eta Mu chapter. He provided some of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever had, and after the team finished eating I went back for thirds and fourths. After dinner we had our first team meeting, discussed the days past and what lay ahead. After that it was off to bed, and off to the fourth 5:30 am wake-up in a row, great. See your smiling faces in Tallahassee.


Day 5 Ft. Myers

Day 5
May 19, 2008
Ft. Myers, FL
Written by Trey Flowers
Eta Chi
Texas Christian University

Today was another long and hard ride spanning the endless roads under the hot Florida sun. As we passed more roadside alligators and Florida orange trees, all was well until we turned into a bitter headwind that cut our pace in half. We were rushed to get to our arrival at the Lee County ARC (LARC) in Ft. Myers, but we were reminded why it was all worth it once we finally got there. The ride ended well through the beautiful town as we rode along the beach and through the palm trees into our stage-up.

The LARC was one of our most exciting arrivals yet – there were hundreds of enthusiastic clients there waiting for us, and they screamed with all their might to let us know how much we were appreciated. The applause and cheering was more than enough to let us feel that our struggles to get to Ft. Myers were miniscule compared to the struggles faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis. After a very filling lunch (foot long Subway sandwiches for everyone!), we toured the facilities and saw their accessible woodshop, arts and crafts rooms, cafeteria, and classrooms. One of the stops on the tour was a class that was learning about what to do in case another hurricane came to Florida, and all of the clients knew a whole lot more about it than I did – I was impressed!

After showering and a much appreciated nap, we went on to what was my favorite friendship visit of the trip so far at the Sunrise Community of Southwest Florida. The moment we arrived, a woman named Lisa repeatedly screamed with excitement “oh my gosh” as she met each one of us. She was our most enthusiastic supporter and wanted to dance with all of us (especially Alex Alessandro) and ‘interview’ us in front of everyone. Other clients challenged us to arm wrestling contests and a basketball game after dinner, making it a great friendship visit all around and one of the most rewarding days of Gear Up Florida.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank all of my incredible sponsors for their inspiring generosity and support throughout this journey. Most of all, I am constantly amazed by the endless dedication of my mother who has helped my Push America endeavors in every possible way – thanks for everything, and I love you with all my heart. I can only hope that my journey from Ft. Myers will offer the world as much hope as yours has since you left this town so many years ago.


Day 4 Miami-Clewiston

Different team members take turns writing journals for each day’s events. Below is my journal entry for Day 4. Days 1-3 was when orientation was going on in Miami. More trip updates to come!

Day 4
May 15, 2008
Miami, FL
Written by Tom Gertin

our first team photo

Rise and shine, today began out first official bike ride of Gear Up Florida 2008 and our departure from Miami. In order to escape the worst of the Florida heat we woke up at 5:30am. After working out a few kinks in the route plan we departed at 7am. Interestingly enough, several flat tires occurred to team members within the first 10 miles. Our preparation came into play. We were in pace lines of 3 or 4 so that if something went wrong the team could easily move to the side of the road and fix the problem. Our first encounter with the Florida wild fires was 12 miles into the ride. The smoke still lingering from the fires greatly reduced visibility. We had to rack our bikes for the next 20 miles. While driving past we gazed at the bare charred trees that lined the sides of the road.

With improved conditions we un-racked the bikes and churned along towards Clewiston, FL. We had high spirits and fresh legs. We were making good time blazing through the Florida Everglades. About every 7 miles there was a pit stop where we could rest, fill our water bottles, or eat snacks.

During the last leg of the trip, the road started wearing us down. We were faced with uneven pavement and strong headwinds. Unfortunately, closer to our destination, we ended up being racked with a few miles left so we could check-in in time at Clewiston High School. After settling in most people took advantage of our down time by taking a nap. That evening we visited the Clewiston super Wal-mart to pick up any items we needed (ex. aloe, sunscreen) and to grab something to eat.

The last order of business for the day was washing the vans. Two of the vans had a race to finish first. After getting the vans spick and span clean, we headed back to call it a night and rest up for tomorrow’s early ride.


Gear Up Florida Interactive Map!

Click on the map below to explore interactively my journey throughout Florida. It is a great way to visualize Gear Up Florida, you can zoom in and out and discover the different cities we will stopping at along the way. As you can see it won’t be a straight shot, we will be winding through Florida and covering lots of ground. Click on the different stops and a pop-up bubble will appear. Here you can look at the weather forecast, the miles biked that day, and you can also click on the link to see the daily itinerary.

Other great news is that as of today I have reached a fundraising total of $2000. Thanks to all of my generous sponsors, I have reached this important milestone. It feels so great to be able to enter the trip having raised this amount. Donations are still being accepted throughout the whole two-week trek across Florida and I am still fundraising!

Route Map (click to access interactive map)


Push America Spotlight focus: Camp ASSCA 2008

Click to see video:

Push Camp at Camp ASSCA video 1

Push Camp at Camp ASSCA video 2

I wanted to highlight one of the programs run by Push America. Every Spring Push America organizes several Push Camps across the country. Undergraduates forgo a week of sunbathing on the beach, opting instead to renovate and build accessible environments that will enhance the summer camp experience for people with disabilities. Pi Kapp brothers from various chapters including UNCC, Kennesaw State, and Virginia Tech united and worked side by side doing a week’s worth of construction projects at Camp ASSCA.

Camp ASCCA (Alabama Special Camp for Children and Adults) is a 230-acre, barrier free camp located in Jackson’s Gap, Alabama. 10,000+ visitors who spend time at the facility each year. The Camp ASCCA Mission is to help children and adults with disabilities achieve equality, dignity, and maximum independence through a safe and quality program of camping, recreation, and education in a year-round barrier-free environment.

The first morning we started off by doing some team-building exercises at the indoor basketball court. In one of the exercises we had to get our whole team across the jump rope. We thought we did it the first time, but we found out the jump rope holders also had to get across.
Team Building exercise

We started off with lots of hole digging. Then we were able to put the posts in the ground and form the frame boxes. After that we begun nailing wooden joists to the frames. In the background you can see the splashpad that was able to start operating this month.

Day 1

Occasionally it was nice to get out of the sun and work on the signs for the camp buildings.

arts and crafts

The Pergolas on the Bocce Ball courts turned out really nice! They’ll also provide a good amount of shade.


At the end of the week it was amazing to look back and marvel at all the work we had completed. I’m sure that the 30 X 40 accessible deck we built will gets lots of use this summer!

Team photo