UB Student to Bike Cross-Country as Part of Fraternity Project to Raise Funds for People with Disabilities

2 other UB students participating in Florida bike trek in April

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: April 6, 2001 This content is archived.


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UB sophomore Grayson Omans will leave the West Coast June 7 on the cross-country Journey of Hope bicycle trip to benefit people with disabilities.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo sophomore Grayson Omans will be one of 70 members of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity who will pedal cross-country this summer on a 3,900-mile "Journey of Hope" to fund projects for people with disabilities.

The trip is part of Pi Kappa Phi's national service project, Push America, which is committed to raising awareness and funds on behalf of people with disabilities.

Push America also includes a shorter, 850-mile bicycle trip, "Gear Up Florida," that will leave Miami May 12 and end in Tallahassee May 26. Omans' fraternity brothers Nelson Santana, a senior, and sophomore Ben Weremblewski plan to ride in Gear Up Florida.

The 36-member Beta Gamma chapter of Pi Kappa Phi at UB, founded on campus last semester, already has shown its commitment to others by adopting as its ongoing service project School 84, attended by some 170 Buffalo students between the ages of 5 and 21 who have single or multiple physical disabilities.

A business major from Cazenovia, Omans and his Journey of Hope teammates each will be backed by $4,000 in pledges from family, friends, local businesses and other organizations.

Pedaling in the Gear Up Florida ride, Santana, a neuropsychology major from Roosevelt Island, and Weremblewski, a business major from West Seneca, each must raise $1,500.

Omans' 71-day road trip will begin June 7 in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Bridge, where the cyclists will split into two teams. One team will take the southern route, while Omans' team will follow the northern route.

The teams will meet Aug. 12 in the nation's capital.

Journey of Hope cyclists expect to raise more than $280,000 this summer to fund projects selected by the national fraternity.

James Slaiman of Grand Island, advisor for the local chapter's Push America activities, rode in the Journey of Hope when he was a student at State University College at Brockport.

"We stayed away from big cities, traveling the back roads on a pre-determined route with scheduled overnights and rest stops," he explained.

Residents in towns along the way welcomed the team's visit as an exciting event.

"We felt like champion athletes and celebrities when people turned out to meet us, offering us food and hospitality," he grinned.

More often than not, they also collected a donation for Journey of Hope.

The cyclists will be accompanied along the routes by fraternity members who have first-aid training or bike-repair know-how, driving vehicles equipped with food, medical supplies and bicycle parts.

Each team will average 75 miles a day, pedaling through more than 100 cities.

Taking the northern leg of the trip, Omans' team will travel through such states as Nevada, Utah, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

"The trip gives us a chance to show people that fraternity members aren't just 'party animals' only interested in having a good time," Omans said.

"But," he added, "we will have fun, meet lots of nice people, face our own personal challenge to complete the journey and do something for somebody else."

At Buffalo's School 84, the 36 members of UB's Beta Gamma chapter of Pi Kappa Phi schedule regular visits to the school around their own class schedules and the school's programs and activities.

The fraternity members not only participate in swimming, art and reading projects, but also act as "big brothers" to the students.

Gail Koslowski, project coordinator at School 84, said the education and training its students receive are designed to equip them to be mainstreamed into schools in the community, learn job skills and, in some cases, earn associate or undergraduate degrees.

"Our students look forward to weekly visits from their UB friends," Koslowski noted.

Plans are under way for the fraternity members to build a "user-friendly," covered shelter so that students can participate in outdoor activities.

"Our commitment to School 84 links the university, through our chapter, with the community to provide a needed, ongoing service," Omans pointed out.

"Our members already have learned to develop creative ideas and become more sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities," he added.

Anyone interested in placing a pledge for the trip may contact Omans at 645-4858 or Slaiman at 565-3901.