Cole Cunningham, a recent College of Business and Economics alumnus who graduated with a marketing degree and a certificate in leadership, will be embarking on a cross-country cycling expedition from June 8 to August 10 in an effort to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities. Through his involvement with the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity as the philanthropy chairman his freshman year, Cunningham developed a passion to help those with special needs. With graduation on the horizon, Cunningham connected with the fraternity’s national philanthropy, the Ability Experience, an organization that is “near and dear” to his heart and one of the main reasons he joined Pi Kappa Phi.
As an extension of the fraternity’s philanthropic initiative, Cunningham is taking part in the Journey of Hope, a 3,600-mile trek across the country. He will join 19 other cyclists on the road – all active or former members of Pi Kappa Phi from colleges across the country – along with five crew members and one project manager.
Their trip begins in Santa Barbara and ends in Washington, D.C. The team will conclude at the Capitol Building, where they will unite with two other Journey of Hope groups that are riding from Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA.
Cunningham and his fellow team members will log roughly 75 miles each day on their bikes, along with many stops for “friendship visits” along the trek. During these visits, the team will volunteer at more than a hundred organizations that offer services and support to people with disabilities. Cunningham said the shared experiences will benefit both the communities they visit as well as everyone on the team.
“Through working with local organizations such as Special Olympics Idaho, I have seen firsthand how impactful these interactions can be in the Boise community,” he said. “I am extremely humbled and excited to now have the opportunity to reach communities across the country.”
Although he enjoys sports that require high endurance, Cunningham never thought he would one day travel across the country on a bike. He is on a rigorous training and nutrition plan provided by the Ability Experience that incorporates coaching from professional cycling and triathlon coaches Alan Greening and Corey Dillon. When he isn’t at the gym, his workout routine typically involves a ride up to Table Rock to build endurance and adjust to change in elevation, followed by a ride out to Lucky Peak.
“Averaging around 75 miles a day and 3,670 miles total this summer, I am trying to get in as many miles on the saddle right now and stick to the meal plan as best as I can,” he said.
Along with the mandatory training, Journey of Hope members are in charge of raising funds, which will then be used to provide grants or fund other accessibility projects to many of the organizations throughout the year. Cunningham is closing in on his personal goal of $12,000 raised by the many individual donors as well as companies like Chipotle and Kount.
“Knowing that I have Boise State and the entire Boise community’s support means a lot and will keep me motivated to keep pushing on when the going gets tough this summer,” he said.