Nico Harrington and Karl Ochs will finish their finals in May with visions of Florida running through their minds — but not for the sandy beaches or resort hotels.
Harrington and Ochs will be bicycling more than 800 miles through Florida with about 35 of their Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers from across the nation for a charity event, Gear Up Florida.
The event, organized by Push America, has participants bike 865 miles from May 8-24 to raise and personally donate money to families with disabilities.
Push America is a nonprofit organization owned and operated by Pi Kappa Phi members that focuses on aiding people with disabilities with fundraising and construction projects.
Harrington, a human biology and premedical junior, rushed Pi Kappa Phi his freshman year because he was inspired by a fraternity brother who did Gear up Florida who told stories about his experiences, he said.
“That’s what I want to do,” Harrington said. “I want to be the reason why (disabled people) are here today or had a surgery to help them.”
Ochs, a biochemistry and molecular biology sophomore, was more hesitant about signing up because of the cycling aspect, he said.
“I ended up wanting to do it because I always think its important that if you’re able to do charity events and raise money that you should,” Ochs said.
The organization’s values — ability, teamwork, empathy and integrity — are evident in Gear Up Florida.
Several teams of four or five bikers will wake up at 6 a.m. each day to eat a small breakfast. They have to be on their bikes by 7 a.m. in all-new, all-blue jerseys to cycle up to 100 miles under the Sunshine State’s sweltering summer sky.
Teams will stop at houses along their route to present the money they raised to families with disabilities.
Families will typically invite the bikers into their homes for a hot meal and good company. If space in the home is limited the team will stay in a hotel, Harrington said.
The total team goal is $100,000, which will be divided amongst the recipient families. Harrington has pledged to raise $4,500 through family, friends and fundraising. Ochs is aiming for $4,250.
The bicycle Harrington will be using for the trip, including the accessories that go with it, will cost him between $3,000 and $4,000.
Ochs said he looks forward to the physical challenge of biking 865 miles in two weeks, but the real reward will be the service along the way.
“About every other day, we’ll stop at a community center or a home for people with disabilities and help out,” said Ochs.
Harrington has been hitting the gym since the beginning of the school year to train for the rigorous physical demands of the trip, he said. His goal is to bike at least 10 miles a day, after lifting weights.
“I minimize the amount of water I take while I train (on a bike) so I’m used to being dehydrated,” Harrington said of the challenges Florida’s heat will bring him.
On the other hand, Ochs said he plans on drinking “lots and lots and lots of water, (because) honestly it’s gonna be a little hot.”
Ochs said he trains by running a 5k every other day and lifting weights.
“As soon as the weather clears up I have my bike all ready,” Ochs said.
Harrington hopes that Gear Up Florida won’t be his last trip with Push America — his ultimate goal is to spend a summer cycling 12,000 miles across the United States for the Journey of Hope.