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Bikers deliver positive message during their “Journey of Hope”

Cross country trip to raise ability awareness makes stop in Vandalia


Story and photos by Leah Williams


When the guests arrived on Monday afternoon, there was a warm welcome waiting for them.

Nearly 60 individuals associated with Fayco Enterprises had made posters and signs for when the visitors arrived.

Kaleb left, greets, the Ability Experience riders during a Friendship Visit Monday at Fayco Enterprises.

The Ability Experience included 17 riders and 6 crew members who are traveling across the country in hopes of bringing more awareness about disability awareness. The event Monday at Fayco was considered a Friendship Visit, where the team gets the opportunity to interact with individuals in a day devoted to fun.

“Everyone is so excited,” said Sue Leidner, adult service coordinator at Fayco Enterprises. “We have been tracking where they have been on this big map and pinpointed when they were coming.”

The Ability Experience, a philanthropic initiative of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, started their Journey of Hope trek on June 8 when they departed from Seattle. Their trip would end at Washington, D.C. 

Fernando Cortes, public relations coordinator, for the Ability Experience, said the importance of the journey is about coming together and finding common ground no matter what.

“We all may be different but we are all one people no matter what. There is no reason why they should be treated,” Csaid. “Everyone has the same heart.”

Annie Ledbetter, left, shares a laugh with crew member Eric Liu inside the inflatable bumper.

Fayco Enterprises is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing experience, training and opportunities for adults with disabilities. 

“What is so special about us is the people we serve,” Fayco Enterprises Director of Programs Brian Gaskin said. “We serve a great group of people, and for a lot of them we are their support system.”

The Ability Experience also donated $500 to Fayco Enterprises during the Friendship Visit.

“It’s amazing to be welcomed like this,” said Harrison Covert, project manager. “We are raising awareness for people with disabilities who are integrating into communities across the country. The one thing that struck me is the fact that disabilities are a kind of diversity that you don’t often think of. It brings unique perspectives that cannot be clearly understood otherwise unless you include the diversity community.”

Joanna Gilmore and Andy Wiley pose together during the Friendship Visit.

Getting the opportunity to devote their summer is more than just a trip. Riders and fraternity members Andy Wiley and Charlie Marconi are embarking on their first cross-country Journey of Hope, and they said their favorite part about the journey is the chance to connect with individuals they may not have met otherwise.

“It’s cool getting to meet people from all over,” Wiley said. “What gets us motivated is when we are told about the impact on the places that we go. Some have said it has felt like Christmas when we arrive.”

Marconi agreed, adding: “We come in with a lot of positive energy and get everyone excited. And that is what it’s all about.”

The Ability Experience donated $500 to Fayco Enterprises during its Friendship Visit on Monday. Pictured are Brian Gaskin, Fayco Enterprises director of programs; Ability Experience project manager Harrison Covert; and Sue Leidner, Fayco adult services coordinator.