NILES - Fraternity brothers with Pi Kappa Phi spent the past 25 years cycling across America to raise awareness and acceptance of individuals with disabilities.
Thirty-eight members of the fraternity stopped this week on their trek across country at Fairhaven School in Niles, marking the 12th visit the group has made to the school.
The group of cyclists left June 3 from San Francisco and are expected to arrive Sunday in Washington, D.C. The event is called ''Journey of Hope.''
Ricky Rascon, a bicyclist and public relations for the group, said the two-month trip allowed the riders to meet individuals who benefit from their mission of creating awareness and acceptance across the nation.
Rascon said their purpose for stopping at places such as Fairhaven is to interact with the people who attend.
''Too often, people are put on the back burner because they are different. We are trying to promote that people with disabilities have capabilities,'' he said.
Rascon said they spend time and learn firsthand what their capabilities are, and to promote and embrace those with disabilities.
Linda Tiihonen, director of the Fairhaven Foundation, said, ''The students look forward to this day and are absolutely unabashedly excited when they hear the bicyclists are coming.''
Signs at the front entrance of the school welcomed the bicyclists.
Rascon said the annual ride started in 1987. There are three routes, with one starting in Seattle, another at San Francisco, and the third in Long Beach, Calif. Each member is required to raise $5,500, he said.
''Every year they come out and intermingle and dance. It's a good time for all,'' Tiihonen said.
She said the bicyclists are also provided dinner by the Olive Garden, which supports what they do.
Rascon said he cycled in 2009 and this year is a crew member working public relations.
He said the college students can take part in the summer on the ride when they do not attend classes.
Tiihonen said the Fairhaven Foundation applied for a grant from the Push America Journey of Hope, receiving a $1,000 grant, which was used for 500 tickets for the Scrappers Game for the Fairhaven students with their families and friends to attend during Niles Community Day.
Rascon said fundraising this year by the group raised $670,000.
Superintendent Edward J. Stark of the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities Fairhaven Programs said the visit helps raise awareness for programs.
Rascon said the group will meet up with two other teams (the Trans America and the South Route) at the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on Sunday.
The bicyclists stayed overnight at Fairhaven before leaving for Pittsburgh.