Luke Maslow readies for Journey of Hopeby Russell Alston
After Luke Maslow, a 21-year-old communication major, graduates from Coastal Carolina University in May, he will embark on the summer vacation to end all summer vacations, a cross-country trip across the United States.
He’ll begin by driving to Los Angles with his sister. Then, starting at Long Beach, Calif., Maslow will travel back east, stopping in a total of 12 states. He’ll have plenty of company while covering the 3,575-mile journey to his final destination: Washington D.C. Thirty-five of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers will be with him.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year,” he says. “I believe it will be a life-changing experience.”
Life changing indeed, as Maslow will complete the entire journey on a green-and-black Trek 2.1 bicycle he describes as “very smooth and comfortable, once you get used to the seat.”
From June 14 to Aug. 10, Maslow will take part in one of the largest fraternal fundraising and awareness events of its kind, the Journey of Hope. The bicycle trek is divided into three different routes, each with 35 Pi Kappa Phi brothers. Stops are scheduled in more than 50 cities, covering 12,000 miles combined. Cyclists choose between the northern route out of Oakland, Calif., the Trans America route out of Seattle, Wash., and the southern route out of Long Beach. Maslow is travelling the southern route.
The short list of cities Maslow and crew will roll through include: Las Vegas; Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Tempe, Ariz.; Roswell, N.M.; Dallas, Texas; Shreveport, La.; Jackson, Miss.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta, Charlotte, Lexington, Va.; and finally, Washington, D.C.
“They stress the fact that we’re not there for fun,” he says. “We’re here for one cause, helping people with disabilities.”
Journey for Hope raises more than $500,000 annually for Pi Kappa Phi’s nationally philanthropy, Push America. Push America is a nonprofit organization owned by the fraternity whose “purpose of instilling lifelong service in its members and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities” accomplishes two goals: serving people with disabilities and “building leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today.” Maslow and his brothers will stick to their fraternity’s creed in virtually each city they visit.
Upon arriving in a city after cycling 100 miles some days, Maslow won’t be napping or sightseeing. Teams will arrive in cities within hours of volunteers for other Pi Kappa Phi philanthropic programs, such as Build for America and Push Weekend. “We’ll do friendship visits with a local group that supports kids with disabilities, play a game of wheelchair basketball with a local team, stage a puppet show for kids with disabilities or help to build playgrounds,” says Maslow.
This is a serious challenge mentally and certainly physically. Maslow has been preparing with strength training four days a week and bike training five days a week. He concedes that his workout regimen can be “pretty rigorous,” especially for someone who is not a “natural born biker.” Spin classes in the HTC Center gym have helped, however, along with countless hours spent cycling around campus.
“Everyone around campus has been very supportive,” he says. “From words of encouragement to donations, everyone has been reminding me that’s it’s for a honorable cause. One of my professors, Brian Roessler, is always doing something to promote me, and I didn’t even have to ask him.” Roessler is a lecturer with CCU’s Department of Communication and also a fraternity brother of Maslow’s.
Maslow has also reached out to people from his hometown of Reisterstown, Md., by sending more than 100 emails to his former teachers and administrators at Franklin High School. His parents, at first skeptical, are now fully invested, even helping him to purchase his bicycle. There’s also his uncle, Michael Berey, described as the cyclist in the family.
“He’s been giving me the most advice, from how to change a tire, riding techniques and how to keep my nutrition up."
Maslow is the only student from CCU participating in this year's Journey of Hope, and he's looking forward to being a representative of the place he’s called home for the past four years.
“Not only will I be doing this for a cause, I’ll also be representing Coastal,” he says. “I hope I can come back with some pictures, like holding a Coastal flag at the Grand Canyon.”
Maslow needs to raise $5,500 and has currently raised more than half that amount. There are ways to help him accomplish his goal or to just lend some words of encouragement. There’s his Facebook page, Journey for Hope 2013 Luke Maslow, where he will post updates of his journey. He also has a dedicated page on the Push America website, www.pushamerica.org, under the Journey for Hope link.
Raising the money, while important, is not Maslow’s main concern or focus. For him, it’s about doing something that matters and making a difference in someone’s life, despite the apparent challenges that lie ahead.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge to myself, as well as a challenge in helping people with disabilities. I really want to be involved in something that let’s me help other people. It’s something I’m passionate about it.”