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Gainesville native bikes the U.S. for the disabled
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Gainesville resident and Georgia State University student David Brown endured blazing heat and mountainous curves while biking across country for a fundraiser.

A freshman at Georgia State University, David Orland Brown wanted "to do something really big and step up with my fraternity."

The 2007 graduate of Chestatee High School in northwest Hall had heard about Journey of Hope, a bicycle ride across the continental United States that is sponsored by Push America, the philanthropic arm of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

"Nobody from my chapter has done this event in over 10 years," said Brown, a Gainesville native. "I looked into it and talked to the guys (at national headquarters), and they got me real motivated with it."

"You have to raise $5,000 to even be considered (for the event). I spent half a year raising (the money), but it wasn't difficult. A lot of people from Gainesville gave me money."

Brown, 22, ended up raising $12,000 for people with disabilities through the event.

This past summer, Brown completed his second cycling trek with Journey of Hope.

Brown's travels began at sea level in San Francisco and ended at nearly 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, Colo.

"The north route is hills and chills," said Brown, recalling the fear of going downhill at nearly 50 mph with a shaky, nearly broken down bicycle before he completed his tour.

Cyclists made "friendship visits," meeting with people with disabilities, when they finished their allotted mileage for the day. Brown played wheelchair basketball in Sacramento, Calif., and swam with some people in Lake Tahoe at the California-Nevada border.

"The team was superhuman," Brown said. "We woke up by 5 a.m. and rode 80 miles per day on average, burning 10,000 calories. Then we made friendship visits at night."

Two years ago, Brown completed the 4,500-mile southern route in two months, having to cope with 120-degree heat in Bull Head City, Ariz.

This year's event raised a combined $500,000 from 82 Pi Kappa Phi cyclists from all over the country completing a total 12,000 miles. They stopped in 100 communities along the way.

Brown, an international real estate senior with a minor in Spanish, wasn't an avid cyclist before the events.

"I rode bikes in my neighborhood when I was kid," he said. "I literally bought my bike maybe three weeks before I left for the (first) trip."

Brown, who served last year as the fraternity's vice president, said he dedicated his Journey of Hope ride to his little sister, Kalan, who has an extra "X" chromosome.

Now the group's social and philanthropy chairman, he is looking at other Push America events benefiting the disabled.

"I'm in the midst of trying to come up with another big event I want to have with every fraternity and sorority on campus," Brown said. "I'm brainstorming right now."

Brown has big dreams after his graduation in December 2011, with plans to join a real estate firm in Atlanta or elsewhere.

"I want to go around the world and sell and develop commercial real estate," he said. "I would like to go to a Spanish-speaking country and do that."


Renee DeGross Valdes of Georgia State University contributed to this report.

 

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