Two Stony Brook student leaders are devoting their whole summer to cycling more than 4,000 miles across the country to raise awareness and funds for their respective charities.
Justas Klimavicius ’19, President of Undergraduate Student Government (USG), will be biking across the country with The Ability Experience, a philanthropic initiative of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that focuses on empowering people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Zachary Shaps, USG Senator, will also be cycling across the country for 70 days this summer for a cause dear to his heart. His 4,000-mile journey from Baltimore to Seattle is intended to to raise awareness for the Ulman Foundation.
Journey of Hope
For the past 30 years, members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity have sponsored an event called Journey of Hope in which students bike across the United States to raise awareness of disabilities. The cross-country journey is intended to fulfill the vision of The Ability Experience, which seeks to create a community where “abilities of all people are recognized and valued.”
Klimavicius spent his Spring Break last year with The Ability Experience in Guatemala. This experience encouraged him to look for ways to do more, “I am blessed to have the various opportunities in life that I have had, and think it is important to support others that may not have had the same experiences,” Klimavicius said.
More than a hundred students and alumni across the country will join Klimavicius on his journey of hope this summer. While traveling over 3,000 miles, they will also be visiting local communities and engaging with community members at events called Friendship Visits, which include social activities such as bowling, dance parties and sports.
As part of the Journey, each participant is required to raise $6,000 in order to make the service possible and benefit people with disabilities. Klimavicius has started a donation page in order to help support his Journey of Hope. All proceeds benefit the Ability Experience.
“No matter how hard this journey will be for seven weeks, it doesn’t even compare to the difficulties that people with disabilities face throughout their life. I see it as a nice way to connect with different communities and learn from them” said Klimavicius.
Shaps’s journey is sponsored by 4K for Cancer. The Foundation has raised over $7 million for the fight against cancer since its inception in 2001, and this number continues to rise with the participation of students such as Shaps.
“I initially chose to ride across America this summer to support young adults battling cancer, and raise money for a great cause. I also want to ride to inspire others to continue the fight,” Shaps said.
The Ulman Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to supporting young adults battling cancer by providing guidance during chemotherapy, housing for those receiving treatment, scholarships and other services that help young adults adjust.
Shaps discovered the Ulman Foundation and felt the organization suited his goals: “I knew that after graduating I wanted to help others and do something meaningful. Already having my own connections to this cancer community, it was a perfect fit.”
Training hasn’t been easy, but both students are confident that their dedication and commitment will pay off.
“I try to stay active with plenty of cardio, but I’ve also been sticking to a tough workout regimen and lots of practice routes,” Shaps said.
— Rabia Gursoy ’21