The fight to end Alzheimer’s disease has been a long, difficult road, but since 2010, several members of WKU’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity have proven they will travel almost any distance to find a cure.
Even if that distance is by bike.
In 2009, WKU graduate and former Phi Gamma Delta president Tyler Jury devised FIJI’s Across America after losing his grandfather to Alzheimer’s. Jury organized a cross-country bike ride, which he hoped would in turn raise funds for Alzheimer’s research.
After four years, two cross-country bike rides, thousands of miles, and some sore glutes, Jury’s fundraiser, now known as Bike4Alz, has raised approximately $121,000 in donations, and the fundraiser will continue with the 2014 Bike4Alz ride.
Last Saturday at Spero Kereiakes Park, FIJI continued its quest to cure Alzheimer’s by hosting the “Purple Run,” a 5k fundraiser. They also announced next year’s fundraiser.
Louisville junior and Phi Gamma Delta member Kyle Stewart said proceeds from the Purple Run go to Alzheimer’s research.
“We saw that these types of 5ks were successful in other cities,” he said. “For our philanthropies, we try to do something that involves the entire community and not just the Greek community.”
Participants in this year’s Purple Run each contributed $25 to the Alzheimer’s Association and were doused at the finish line with purple powder, the official color of Phi Gamma Delta. Saturday’s run netted about $3,200, with $700 in profit going to research.
Following the run, Phi Gamma Delta presented a $32,700 donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in the form of a giant check. The donation, which excluded fundraising costs, came from the second cross-country bike ride that occurred in 2012.
Louisville sophomore Will Owens, a member of that 2012 crew, spoke about the legacy of Bike4Alz before the check was presented.
“In 2010, Tyler Jury, along with six of our fraternity brothers and a guy from UK completed the first bike ride from our chapter across the country, going from California to Virginia,” he said. “They raised close to $56,000 on that bike ride and were able to donate close to $30,000 of that 56 to the Alzheimer’s Association. Their ride in turn inspired nine of us to do our own ride in 2012. We spent two months cycling from the Canadian border in Minnesota to Key West, Florida.”
Owens said he has countless memories from that ride. Those involved biked between 60 to 70 miles every day.
“Doing the actual trip can be taxing, but looking back I remember the overall experience of meeting people, hearing their stories, and spending times with my friends,” Owens said. “There were definitely some tough times, but the reward was worth it.”
Winchester senior Austin Lanter was also part of the 2012 ride. Lanter drove support vehicle for the trip, driving ahead of the group, but said his own grandmother’s contraction of Alzheimer’s incited him to participate.
“My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s and it’s been getting worse and worse as time has gone on,” he said. “I was passionate about it because of my grandmother and I want to raise money for her. I drove support vehicle, but I did bike one day for her.”
This summer’s Bike4Alz ride is scheduled to begin in May. The route will begin in Oceanside, California and end in Washington, D.C. Phi Gamma Delta hopes to raise $100,000 this year, said Crestwood junior Luke Sparks, who will be participating in the 2014 ride.
“We have a set a goal of $100,000,” he said. “The previous group raised 65,000 so we’ll see if we can keep building off that momentum and keep raising money for a great cause.”
Dalton, Georgia junior Ryne McMullen is also riding in 2014. He said he is excited to get on the road.
“It’s a really great opportunity to do something cool that you’re not going to have a chance to do any other time in your life,” McMullen said. “Biking across the country isn’t something you can just pick up and do after you get out of college. It’s also awesome to spend an entire summer raising so much money for a great cause.”