This summer one student will embark on a 4,000-mile journey across the country — all by bike.
The Journey of Hope cycling fundraiser was designed for The Ability Experience, an organization owned and operated by Pi Kappa Phi which aims to spread a message of acceptance and understanding toward people with disabilities.
Ochs said this organization was one of the main reasons he joined Pi Kappa Phi as a freshman.
Last year was Ochs’s first big cycling adventure, traveling from Miami to Tallahassee in Gear Up Florida.
Overall his team raised $95,000 for people with disabilities.
This year, beginning on June 7, Ochs decided to step it up, cycling 4,000 miles instead of 900.
“I love challenging myself. It’s a good way to do that and help people while I’m at it,” Ochs said. “It’s a huge challenge upon myself to not only do it physically, but to raise the money and embark on a journey that’s over two month’s commitment.”
Along the way, the team of 30 cyclists will be stopping at group homes for people with disabilities.
Ochs said they do a variety of activities, from board games to sports to dances to keep them entertained and brighten their days.
He said these visits were what he enjoyed most during Gear Up Florida.
“It’s really cool because we not only get to raise money for people with disabilities, but we get to interact directly with the people that we’re helping,” Ochs said.
Ochs said his route will travel through Michigan and even make a stop in East Lansing at the group home where he volunteers regularly.
He said after last year’s ride, he is a little more experienced and knows what to expect from the journey.
Gear Up Florida began the day after Ochs’s 21st birthday with 103 difficult miles. But the third day was when the fatigue really hit him.
“I wanted to quit, to be honest. It was really hard and it was catching up with me,” Ochs said.
In the end, a safety coach motivated him to finish first after being in the back that third day.
Ochs said overcoming that exhaustion really changed his mentality and he felt like he could go even farther.
Training for Journey for Hope has not been without challenges of its own.
Ochs said his biggest obstacle was getting emergency surgery just a couple of weeks ago.
With acute appendicitis and a removed appendix, his training was derailed for a few weeks.
That hasn’t stopped Ochs. He said his first ride after surgery felt good, and he’s had a lot of unwavering support from his family, friends and fraternity brothers.
He said Journey for Hope is about recognizing people with disabilities who aren’t ordinarily noticed.
“People in their own communities don’t even know that they have these centers,” Ochs said.
When the cyclists arrive in these small towns, Ochs said it’s a big deal, with police escorts and a lot of attention.
“What we’re trying to accomplish with that is to show people in that community that there’s people in their own community that need help,” Ochs said.
He said the intention is to motivate people to volunteer, donate and otherwise support people with disabilities.
As a pre-medical student, Ochs said his goal in life is simply to help people.
He said Journey for Hope is a way for him to do that even before his career starts.
“It’s something that my parents are still saying to me, to better yourself by helping other people,” Ochs said.