Riverview Park's Community Building was alive with music, food and games late Monday morning as 30 bicyclists joined nearly 50 special needs children from Camp Marshalltown for an afternoon of fun and fellowship.
The cyclists and eight crew members are Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members from across the United States.
The Marshalltown overnight stop is part of the group's cross-country ride and they are nearly 2,000 miles into the trip with approximately 2,000 more to go.
T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY
Shown Monday night at Marshalltown’s Totem Bowl are PUSH America bicyclists holding a quilt made by ARC representative Pat Western of Marshalltown, third from left. Western made the quilt of event tee shirts over a period of four months to honor the group for their frequent donations to Marshalltown ARC. Bowling at Totem Bowl with ARC adults is a PUSH America tradition, as is stopping in Marshalltown. Monday marked the 22nd visit to Marshalltown by the philanthropic group, which has completed one-half of its cross-country tour.
They started June 5 in San Francisco and are scheduled to finish Aug. 5 in Washington, D.C.
The ride is sponsored in party by PUSH America- a not-for-profit philanthropic organization started by the fraternity encompassing 32 states, according to its website. It sponsors other cross-country trips annually.
"Journey of Hope" is the ride's theme and has been for 25 consecutive years.
Its mission is to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities - mental and physical - and enhance the quality of their lives.
"We are more interested in telling the stories of what disabled folks can do, versus what they can't do," cyclist Sean Traver of Williamston, Mich. said.
The cyclists do more than ride - each commits to raising at least $5,500 before the trip begins.
Individual efforts melded with corporate sponsorships resulted in this year's teams raising a record $650,000.
The funds are given to organizations like Marshalltown's ARC.
This year PUSH America awarded Camp Marshalltown $1,000.
"Approximately 83 percent of the money PUSH America raises goes back to agencies like ARC," Ricky Rascon, ride public relations director said.
Rascon, of Las Cruces, N.M., is a crew member but rode cross-country in 2009.
He has a special reason for staying involved.
His dad is a paraplegic.
"Riding is a way to serve people," Rascon said. "It is a very humbling experience. It's impacted my life to another level, getting to know the kids and staff with Camp Marshalltown like we are visiting with now. Several of the cyclists on this trip have family members with disabilities."
Traver said he is cycling across country as a way of honoring his cousin who has Downs Syndrome.
"In growing up with him, I learned about patience and other skills," he said. "I'm riding as part of service ... a way of giving back."
After cycling 65 miles from Des Moines, the bicyclists were hungry and eagerly hit the food line for brats, chips, watermelon and beverages all courtesy of ARC.
Many sat down to eat with the kids and staff from Camp Marshalltown and shared stories.
Rider Kalen Kenney of Mobile, Ala., was seen hamming it up before a camera with Cody Freese of Camp Marshalltown.
Since leaving San Francisco, the riders have experienced mountains with elevations of 12,000 feet, harsh winds in Utah and Nebraska's extreme heat.
Drinking plenty of energy beverages, water and eating nutritional bars along the route have helped the riders in the heat - it is needed as they average 80 miles per day.
"The PUSH America visit is the highlight of ARC's year," Jacey Stewart of ARC said. "It is a pleasure getting to know these fine young men - we've been fortunate that a group has stopped here annually. We like when the come here during the week, so they can visit with the kids during the day and adults at night."
After evening bowling with ARC adults, the team spent the night at Marshalltown Community College in preparation for Tuesday's ride to Cedar Rapids.