Twenty-one young men from a variety of universities across the country - bonded by their membership in the national Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and more specifically to its philanthropy Push America - have committed to biking a 4,000-mile Journey of Hope across the country this summer to raise funds and awareness for people with disabilities.
They made their first friendship visit at Thursday after beginning the trip earlier in the day from Seattle. The men had dinner and spent time with House staff as well as some of the kids currently living there.
Ashley House has been a presence in Enumclaw since 1989. It was set up to be a home for children with special needs and their families who are coping with the challenges that that presents. Many come to the House for transitional care as they leave regional medical facilities like Mary Bridge or Seattle Children's Hospital, said Sandi Milligan, House director of clinical services.
Otherwise, the children would likely have to stay in a hospital or other facility that may not be as amenable to accommodating their families who oftentimes also need help and guidance too.
Children stay anywhere from two days to 10 or 11 years, she said. Most outreach is done through area hospitals and the House website. It also collaborates with five nursing school programs for students to do their clinicals here -- much of Ashley House's publicity is done through word of mouth, Milligan said.
The House in Enumclaw is a large 10,000-square-foot home that sits on six acres. Ashley House also maintains four other facilities in Tacoma, Kent and Olympia. Combined, the organization is supported by 85 employees at all five facilities.
Services are funded mostly through private insurance and state funding. Ashley House is a not-for-profit organization, she said. It also receives grants from organizations like United Way and Boeing (employee match) as well as private donations but as a whole does not do a lot of public fundraising.
Since the Journey of Hope team made its visit last year ( from last year), one child has been able to go home to his family; four children are currently living at the House, Milligan said. Their families either stay with them at the House or are close by.
Journey of Hope is a program of Push America, the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, which raises funds and awareness for people with disabilities. This TransAmerica team will cycle an average of 75 miles per day, beginning in Seattle and ending in Washington, D.C. on August 5.
Two other cross country routes are running concurrent to this one, originating in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The TransAmerica team spent their night at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Enumclaw and were scheduled to hit the road this morning at 6 a.m. up State Route 410 to Cayuse and then to White Pass. The men report that this section of the nationwide route has a notorious reputation as being the toughest, so if you're out and about early and see the men on the road, give them a shout of encouragement!
This year marks Push America’s 35th anniversary and Journey of Hope’s 25. The organization was founded in 1977 with the hope of committing its members to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. With the combined efforts of sponsors and individual team members, this year’s Journey of Hope will raise more than $500,000 on behalf of people with disabilities. Push America and Pi Kappa Phi have raised over $15 million to date and continue to be on the cutting edge of the disability movement.
For more information, visit www.pushamerica.org