Mercer Senior Makes a Difference with PUSH America

Mercer senior Drayton Perkins spent his summer crossing America on a bike – it was his second trip cross country helping PUSH America’s Journey of Hope. Perkins worked this summer as crew chief for trans-America cycling route. Perkins, a professional accounting major in the MAPS program at Mercer, is from Barnesville. 

Senior Drayton Perkins biked across the United States this summer with PUSH America, stopping to meet with childen the philanthropy was helping along the way.
Senior Drayton Perkins biked across the United States this summer with PUSH America, stopping to meet with childen the philanthropy was helping along the way.

The impact of the effort has transformed Perkins’ outlook, he said. Perkins participated last summer as a cyclist on the southern route, which begins in San Francisco and ends in Washington, D.C., and this year took on a larger role. As crew chief this summer, Perkins was second-in-command for the trans-America route, which began in Seattle, Wash., and ended in Washington, D.C. In addition to raising money, he was responsible for ensuring safety, proper equipment and food for his fellow cyclists. Perkins was one of six staff members on the route, along with 21 cyclists.

“PUSH America has changed my life. After these past two summers, I have begun to appreciate life a lot more,” said Perkins.  “There are so many things that we take for granted. It is so hard for me to put into words the experiences that I have had. The joy of serving others just makes all of my own personal worries just fade away.”

PUSH America is a philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and raises funds for people with disabilities and organizations that help those with disabilities. “One of PUSH’s main goals is to break down common stereotypes about people with disabilities. A disability is not an inability,” Perkins said.

The cyclists, who travel an average of 75 to 80 miles per day, also visit with organizations for children with disabilities along one of three routes. 

“The trip is more than just a bike ride,” he said.  “Cyclists get to know the people from these organizations and often give out checks for the organizations to make improvements to their program or facilities.”

Journey of Hope has three routes – the southern route, northern route, and trans-America route – which all culminate simultaneously in Washington, D.C.  All three routes take about two and a half months to complete. 

This summer, PUSH America raised $679,000 for people with disabilities, with each cyclist and crew member required to raise funds to participate in the ride. For the past two summers, Perkins raised more than $7,500.

Perkins has been offered a position as project manager for one of the routes on next year’s Journey of Hope. PUSH America’s CEO has expressed interest in Perkins taking a permanent job with the philanthropy after the trip ends. 

In addition to Journey of Hope, PUSH America also organizes Gear Up Florida, an abbreviated, two-week cycling route through Florida.  It begins in Miami and culminates in Tallahassee.  PUSH America also organizes Build America – a six-week team event starting in Cleveland, Ohio, and visiting many different camps and communities to improve the accessibility of areas for people with disabilities – and Give-A-Push Weekend – which takes on smaller-scale projects that can be accomplished in a weekend.  Perkins plans to participate in a Give-A-Push Weekend at a camp in Mississippi later on this year.

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