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A recent graduate of Roanoke College is getting ready to go across the country to serve those with disabilities



Roanoke, Virginia – In early May, more than 400 students from Roanoke College received their diplomas. After graduating, one alumni is going on an incredible national journey to support people with disabilities.

Connor VanOrden, a recent graduate of Roanoke College with a degree in Health and Exercise Science and past president of Pi Kappa Phi, is cycling with Journey of Hope this summer to raise money and awareness for those with disabilities. Joining him on their bike ride from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC are fraternity brothers from all over the country.

“The idea of a cross-country ride alone was interesting to me and then you throw on top the philanthropy, you throw on top helping people out and helping people with disabilities. It’s just a great cause and so those two things coming together just seemed like the perfect storm,” said VanOrden.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity’s charitable endeavor, The Ability Experience, offers the Journey of Hope program.

“We were the first and so far, only Greek letter organization to found our own philanthropy. Our founders saw a need for folks with disabilities that needed an inclusive environment to play. So we were founded on the concept of building play units for those with disabilities. Now it focuses on the importance of friendships. Those one-to-one connections between our students and those with disabilities,” said Andrew Matznick, The Ability Experience Executive Director of Programs.

The fraternity gets together to cycle through 32 states every summer. For just over two months, they are biking 4,000 miles, making stops along the way to visit disability organizations in various areas.

“That might be playing adaptive sports, that might be helping them build a ramp, making things more accessible for them, or it may just be eating lunch and spending the day with them. Talking and getting to know them. So, we’re not just biking across the country and passing through these communities, we’re stopping and reaching back out and giving back to communities we’ve never visited before and meeting people we’ve never met before. That connection is going to be awesome to have,” said VanOrden.

This year, 50 brothers from Pi Kappa Phi will be riding along. Each is collecting money to help The Ability Experience’s services for those with impairments. The groups they visit along the route will receive funding from the team.

“To continue our support for their programs throughout the year as well. While their visit may only last a couple of hours, definitely the memories and hopefully residual impact will last much longer than that,” said Matznick.

VanOrden said he has been putting in a lot of effort in his training for the ride and is excited to meet up with loved ones at the finish. What will happen to the college grad next, though?

“Possibly looking into some options for grad school, possibly looking into switching directions and going towards nursing. But really anything within the health field is where I’m interested in, giving back like the way people gave back to me,” said VanOrden.

On Journey of Hope’s social media platforms, you may track the journey from June 5 to August 10. Roanoke will be the team’s visit on August 4 and 5.

Connor is currently engaged in Journey of Hope fundraising. To donate, go to


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