NJIT Student Cycles Across the Country to Support a Good Cause

Alan Liu (left) is cyling across the country to raise awareness, and money, for disabled people.

Follow Alan's Journey of Hope

Alan Liu is spending the summer sitting on his bottom.

He’s not lazy.

On the contrary, Alan is riding across the country on his bicycle. In early June, he and 38 cyclists set off from San Francisco. In mid-August, he’ll end his cycling odyssey in the nation’s capital: Washington, D.C.

He’s doing the ride to support a good cause -- raising awareness and money for people with disabilities. He’s raised $6,287.60 so far and hopes to raise more. You can visit his website and follow his trip here. As the cyclists traverse the nation, they stop at disability centers. They not only bring joy into the lives of the disabled residents but they leave them with something more tangible: donations.

Alan is sponsored by his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, which established the Journey of Hope, a nonprofit program whose aim is to support disabled people. Last year, two fraternity members cycled cross country. They returned home and said it was the best experience of their lives. After Alan heard that, he was stoked. He started a fundraising campaign that alumni of the fraternity and others supported. And to get fit, he spent the winter working out in the NJIT gym and cycling in Newark’s Branch Brook Park. He's a fifth-year student with a double major in architecture and concrete industry management.

Fast forward four months, and he's now cycling through the sandhills of Nebraska. He’s the only member of his fraternity doing the trip, but he’s riding with members of the national fraternity. A van follows the cyclists to help with bike maintenance, water and snacks. They stop in the evenings to eat, and they sleep in school gyms, community centers and churches. Alan keeps a sleeping bag and an air mattress in the van. The trip is about as unglamorous as you can get and it’s not for the faint of heart -- or lung. He’s riding a Giant road bike that's light and nimble, but he struggled at first when confronted with altitude.  

“All the time I spent at the gym prepared me well mentally,” he says. “I didn't quit a single ride and we do about 80 miles a day. I wasn't physically prepared at first because I'm not used to climbing mountains. But I’ve improved dramatically. I biked over the Rocky Mountains, and the highest point was Loveland Pass, which is 12,000 feet.”

And like his two fraternity brothers who did the ride last summer, he’s having the time of his life. The trip is not a vacation -- it’s a mission, a calling and a journey of love.

“I absolutely love this trip,” he says. I’m really glad I'm making a difference! I’m spreading smiles on the faces of disabled people, children and adults all across the nation.”

He loves visiting the disability centers in the states and meeting the residents. He has visited 20 centers so far, and has many more on his list. When they were in Colorado, his riding group stopped at the Rocky Mountain Village Camp. There, he met a girl named Janet. She has a mental disability, he says, but is always high-spirited and possesses a great capacity for laughter.

"Janet made me realize the importance of the simple pleasures of life,” says Alan. “You should have seen how she beamed when I made a bracelet with her, or when I swam with her. It brought such huge smiles to her face. She really touched my heart. She gave me the motivation to keep on till the end."

By Robert Florida (robert.florida@njit.edu)