Arlington Native on Journey of Hope
By Office of Communication
Posted on July 10, 2012, July 10, 2012

The cheering City Hall crowd that greeted Arlington native Jeffrey Chatman and his fellow cross-country cyclists on Friday supported not only the athletes riding but the larger cause they represent.

Chatman, a Texas Christian University student, is one of a handful of Texans making the southern portion of the Journey of Hope ride. The group made its annual stop in Arlington on its path to the east coast to promote disability awareness.

Chatman's parents, friends and fellow students along with local cyclists and disability advocates joined Mayor Robert Cluck and other City of Arlington officials in welcoming the 35 riders.

Chatman, a Lamar High School graduate, said that while he was happy to see familiar faces, he also was excited by the attention that the enthusiastic turnout called to the group's cause.

Journey of Hope is a program of Push America, a non-profit disability support organization. The riding event includes 32 different states, with cyclists covering more than 12,000 combined miles, to spread a message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities.

The trek, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, involves three different teams of riders who start in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Seattle and all converge in Washington, D.C. It is comprised of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members who ride an average of 75 miles per day.

The event annually raises more than $500,000 and awareness for people with disabilities.

In cities that the group visits, the riders typically work with local leaders to coordinate events that highlight efforts of disabled advocacy groups.

In Arlington, the cyclists played an exhibition game against the national NCAA champion wheelchair basketball team, the University of Texas at Arlington's Movin' Mavs.

Cluck praised the riders for their commitment to the cross-country journey and to those in the disabled community who don't always have a voice.

"What you do is amazing, but the reason that you're doing it is even more amazing," Cluck said.

Chatman's parents, Jerri and David, said it's not surprising that their son, an Eagle Scout who climbed peaks throughout New Mexico last summer, would commit to such a cause.

Chatman said he began working with young children who have autism and Down Syndrome through TCU's KinderFrog program. He said he learned that their spirits were not affected by any of their physical limitations.

"I'd never interacted with people with disabilities before," he said. "It really opened my eyes. They're people who happen to have a disability, not disabled people."

Tim Dunlap, a board member of the Arlington Mayor's Committee On People With Disabilities, said the cyclist's efforts are a visual representation of the work that Push America does year-round.

"I work with people with disabilities every day," he said. "It's such an uplifting experience to have people take that extra step. There are lots of people out there who need that."

By Laurie Fox


Community, Headlines, News, People with Disabilities