Journey of Hope cyclists visit Fairhaven

NILES — The Journey of Hope bicycling team made a visit to Fairhaven School in Niles as part of its effort to raise awareness and encourage inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers, who make up the team, made their 16th visit to the school and were welcomed by numerous signs outside the front entrance of the school stating ”Fairhaven Welcomes Journey of Hope Team.”

The more than 30 cyclists in the group left San Francisco on June 11 and are expected to arrive this weekend in Washington, D.C. to conclude their cross-country trek. There are also two other bicycling groups traveling across country: the Trans American the South Route.

Linda Tiihonen, president of the Fairhaven Foundation, said the cyclists have come to Fairhaven each summer since 2001.

”Everyone here looks forward to their visit and ask at the beginning of the year when they will arrive. They enjoy having them interact with them,” she said.

The cyclists have been on the road for two months while stopping along the way to meet individuals and create awareness and acceptance. The team attended a dance and ate dinner at the Olive Garden as well as stayed overnight at Fairhaven before heading to Pittsburgh.

Jon Michaund, public relations with Journey of Hope, said the riders make ”friendly visits” at different places across the nation.

He said some of the riders have taken part before and others will next year.

”We want to gain attention to our cause as we travel across the country,” Michaund said.

Each cyclist raised $5,500 to participate.

Martin Rickens of Niles said he likes to have the visitors stop for the dance and spend time with everyone. He and others were getting the team’s autographs.

Three Journey of Hope teams cover 32 different states, cycling over 12,000 miles combined and raising $500,000 to spread a message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities.