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Bike4Alz team rides across the country for Alzheimer’s research

Alexandria Anderson
The Bike4Alz team, founded by the WKU Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, made their stop in Bowling Green on Saturday and greeted family and friends.

After reaching Bowling Green on Saturday, the WKU Phi Gamma Delta Bike4Alz team is almost through their cross-country trek to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

The team of 12 fraternity members began the ride from San Francisco, California, on May 20, traveling from city to city with the end goal of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

High heat, steep elevation, rain and wind haven’t stopped the team from making the trek. By staying nights with local supporters, friends and churches as they crossed the country, they are set to finish the 3,600 mile trip on July 27.

Trey Englehardt, a rising senior business and personal finance major, is the vice team operations manager for Bike4Alz, and he rides because it honors the families they meet that have been affected by the disease.

“As you get picked for the organization and really become a part of it, you get to see the impact that the disease has on so many families, and especially some of my teammates, how much it has affected them,” Englehardt said. “Just being able to ride and honor everybody that we’ve met and all the families that we see impacted, it really just has a truly different meaning.”

He explained that once members become a part of the team, they are able to finally see the impact that Alzheimer’s has on families across the country. But for many team members, they see it on a personal level as well.

“I’ve seen people in my family and my friends, and just how that’s hurt them, and memories are very important,” Ryan Spychalski, a rising junior finance and data analytics major, said. “It’s really sad to see people you love not know who you are. We’re working towards playing our part in ending that.”

Bike4Alz team member Elijah Hopkins, a rising senior journalism and political science major, described that telling the towns they travel through about the mission of Bike4Alz is always inspirational. He said doing this is a “once in a lifetime experience.”

“They always love talking to us, especially when we get to memory care facilities,” Hopkins said. “It’s really just hearing about their lives and what they’re going through and just them talking to us, knowing that there is an effort.”

As the team rides cross-country, many members have experienced states they have never seen before. Englehardt said his favorite parts so far have been California and Colorado, despite riding some of the highest elevation of the trek there.

“I had never been west of the Mississippi, like a lot of guys on the team, so just getting out there and just experiencing a whole new culture,” Englehardt said.

For Blake Mitchell, a rising junior biology major, his main reason for joining the team is because of what he’s seen in his family and personal impacts from the disease.

“I just wanted to be able to go out and do something to support Alzheimer’s research,” Mitchell said. “That’s something that just motivates me every day to keep going, especially whenever we have hard days and stuff, to keep biking. To keep doing it.”

The team has faced tough physical challenges during the trek, but Englehardt said the mental aspect is “much tougher” than the physical.

“I think the toughest part is just being away for so long and just living a different lifestyle,” Englehardt said. “The physical aspect is only so hard, but you’re also just living out of the bag for 10 weeks straight and you’re not seeing a familiar face for thousands of miles.”

Throughout the summer, Englehardt said, the team has been shown hospitality in every place they’ve stayed and are extremely grateful for that. He described a town in Nevada with a population of 17 and few houses that still offered the team to camp behind a restaurant.

“People have been so nice and just welcoming,” Englehardt said. “We haven’t stayed at a place where we haven’t felt welcome […] It’s made our trip so much easier, because people are offering us showers and food and it’s just a great experience.”

Englehardt explained that as they travel, the goal is obviously to raise money for Alzheimer’s cure research, but the team also wants awareness for the disease and to build community connections around these goals.

“We’ve also been stressing awareness for Alzheimer’s, being able to go and share our personal stories about our connections and then also share stories about the people we’ve met, and then build connections and communities for even the next team to go through,” Englehardt said.

Editor-in-chief Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected].


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