This June, University of Miami junior Jason Goldenberg will tackle the Journey of Hope, a bike ride benefiting Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropy The Ability Experience. His journey will include biking more than 4,000 miles from West Coast to East Coast, starting in San Francisco.
A New Jersey native and brother of the Alpha Chi Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, Jason through his journey will help raise money and awareness for those with mental and physical disabilities.
“We are very hands-on with The Ability Experience,” Goldenberg said. “We have multiple events per semester with people from local organizations, who have disabilities and [who] come to the [campus, fraternity] house.”
The Journey of Hope consists of three different routes — north, south and trans American. Each begins at a different spot along the West Coast and consists of 27 riders. So far, Jason has dedicated numerous mornings to gearing up with his training buddy, Mike Connelly.
“We have gone out at five in the morning, six in the morning, to where you don’t see light for an hour and a half of riding,” Goldenberg said. “I’ve ridden close to 800 miles now, and every single one of them has been with him.”
Living in Miami during the academic year, Goldenberg has the advantage of riding year-round thanks to Miami’s endless summer. He’s also mentally preparing himself for the uphill terrain he will face during the journey and has biked across the Rickenbacker Causeway.
“The problem [in Miami] is, it’s zero elevation and zero hills,” Goldenberg said. “The ride starts in San Francisco and we go into Colorado almost immediately. There are some days we’re climbing over 4,000 feet. I don’t know how my body is going to react to it.”
That same perseverance is something that follows Goldenberg in all aspects of his life. As a pre-med student, Goldenberg is in the midst of preparing for his MCAT, and will be applying for medical schools over the summer. When he signed up for the ride, he had one major question: will he still be able to do that during the two-month ride? Even with a majority of his time being spent on a bicycle, the participants will have Wi-Fi access at stops along the way.
There are also 10 crew members who will drive caravans within five miles of the team. They are responsible for marking each of the turns, providing water to keep the riders hydrated and rescuing them from bad weather or busted tires.
The pre-ride preparations for the trip include tracking the rider’s training and fundraising a minimum of $5,500 per rider.
Even with a jam-packed schedule, maintaining the ambition to accomplish his goal is possible with the support he gets, Goldberg said.
“Everybody who is in Pi Kapp, everybody in this chapter has pushed me into things I would never think of doing before,” he said. “We all work together to push each other to the next level of what we can accomplish. I guess having all of those supporters behind me, really made me want to take my education, my college experience, to the next level.”
Pi Kappa Phi brother Sam Fein exemplified that exact support.
“When Jason first told me he was doing the Journey of Hope I was the least bit surprised,” said Fein. “Most people would cringe at the thought of riding from coast to coast, but he’s always been one to step up and do things none of us would, or even could. To step back and look at everything he has accomplished since he set this goal is astounding. We are all so proud to call him a friend, brother and role model.”
Each day of the ride, Goldenberg and his team will reach a destination where they are able to interact with local communities. The riders will be able to participate in ice cream socials, wheel chair basketball and wheel chair ice hockey, among other events.
“There are so many things that go into it that aren’t just the bike ride,” Goldenberg said. “Going to new lengths, meeting these new people, really understanding what their life is like … At the end of the day, it’s all about giving back to the actual community and working with those people to help them as best as you can.”
According to Goldenberg’s mother Kathy Goldenberg, her son’s willingness to help others has never been lacking.
“Jason’s wanting to give back to others. He was always that way since he was a young kid,” she said. “And he has such a get-it-done attitude. He told me ‘Don’t worry, Mom.’ This was his own thing and he didn’t allow me to help him, financially. He’s determined.”
On his own, Jason has purchased a new bike for the ride, raised $5,990 and aims to reach a goal of $10,000.
“Of course you’re speaking to his mother, but he amazes me with his fortitude. He will do what it takes. I’m so proud of him,” Kathy Goldenberg said.
But even after he finishes his ride, Goldenberg doesn’t plan to rack up his bike for good. Next year, he wants to take on his own protege and train them for the journey.
“I don’t want this ride to stop with me,” he said. “I don’t want to be the person who did Journey of Hope and then seven years down the line Pi Kapp hears ‘Oh, we had one guy do The Journey of Hope like seven years ago.’ I want to find the guy whom I can train for an entire year so that he can keep passing it down.”
The two months of cycling through mountainous terrain, rolling plains, coastal cities and wide open country side will come to a close at the finish line at 11 a.m. on Aug. 13 at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
“Once you have somebody who does it, you’re breaking the mold. I want to be that guy who can break the mold,” Goldenberg said.
Feature photo courtesy Sidney Sherman