Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Goin' Clubbing: Hockey Player on Journey of Hope

Goin’ Clubbing is a regular feature on Gobbler Country. Each edition is an in-depth look at a different club sport at Virginia Tech. While these athletes aren’t on scholarship, they are still proud to play and represent the university.

Ryan Cole's summer vacation will be more arduous than most among Virginia Tech students. The former hockey player isn't celebrating his graduation by going to the beach or backpacking through Europe.

Instead, he's biking across the United States to raise money for people with disabilities as a part of Journey of Hope.

Cole's fraternity Pi Kappa Phi and its foundation, Push America, are sponsoring several bike rides this summer to help those with disabilities. Cole's ride begins in San Francisco June 14 and concludes in Washington, DC, Aug. 16. Along the way, he'll participate in events that improve the lives of those with disabilities.

"I know the reason why we do this is for people with disabilities and not myself," he said. "I have a lot of fun seeing people with disabilities' faces light up. They are always excited for us to come hang out and talk with them and it really is a great time. Many people along the Journey of Hope say it’s the one day they always look forward to when we ride through their town."

Cole needed to raise $5,000 to be able to participate in the ride. To date, he's raised over $7,500, in part thanks to the Virginia Tech hockey team. On Cole's senior night, the team held a fundraiser for his effort that contributed $250.

The experience will allow Cole to see the country and have an effect on the lives of many. He said he isn't sure what he will learn, but is sure the ride will have a positive impact on him.

"Parents of friends that have done the ride before always say there is something different about their child," he said. "They don’t really know what it is but everyone seems to change. Whether that is we gain a greater appreciation of life, of people with disabilities, I’m not really sure but I’m excited to find out."

The Cannonburg, Pa., native graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in architecture. He will start a job with The Design Alliance Architects in Pittsburgh after his cross-country journey. While his hockey career is over, his summer will be filled with the same camaraderie he experienced with the team.

"That is one thing that is so hard about leaving the hockey team, those guys are my best friends and I know I can call on them anytime I want," Cole said. "You spend so many days a week practicing and working your butt off for a common goal and that is exactly what I expect Journey of Hope to be like. Spending hours and hours every day on the bike you get to know your team very well and I’m assuming some of my best friends will also come out it."

Like many Hokies, Cole will be enjoying his summer outdoors. However, instead of tending to pools and flower petals, he'll be pushing pedals toward a town near you along his journey of hope.

More Information
Ryan Cole's Web site
Push America
Journey of Hope video

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