Pi Kappa Phi benefits PUSH America

One member aims to benefit the outreach program with an 800-mile bike race.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members said they are hoping their philanthropy week will gain attention both for its size and its ability to raise funds for handicapped children.

All funds raised during PiFest, the name of its philanthropy week, will be donated to PUSH America, a national outreach project aimed at enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. The national chapter of Pi Kappa Phi founded PUSH America in 1977.

"As far as I know, we're the only fraternity in the nation that owns its own philanthropy," Pi Kappa Phi Philanthropy Chairman David Landwehr said. "We are given the opportunity to work both locally with our own house but also to potentially work nationally with other Pi Kappa Phis for the same goals."

Pi Kappa Phi is looking to out-do last year's PiFest, which was successful in meeting its fundraising goal for PUSH America. One motivating factor for this year's philanthropy comes from one particular member of the fraternity.

"In the past we were successful with PiFest, and we were able to raise around $1,300, but this year we are aiming to raise around $1,500," Pi Kappa Phi President Mathew McWilliams said. "Beyond that goal though, we are looking to raise $2,500 to sponsor one of our members to participate in a national PUSH America event."

One of the seven national events put on by PUSH America is Gear Up Florida, an 800-mile bike race in which athletes and representatives of the philanthropy spread the message of understanding and acceptance for people who are disabled in communities throughout Florida.

This year, junior Matthew Poehler has been training to participate in the event, which raises more than $80,000 annually to benefit people with disabilities. He said he is hoping enough money will be raised so he is able to attend this summer.

Poehler said he has always wanted to do something different to help people out, and with his background in athletics he thought Gear Up Florida would be the ideal opportunity in which he could contribute to the mission of PUSH America.

"The training aspect has been a little interesting, but I feel like it's all for the right cause," Poehler said. "Obviously $2,500 is a lot of money to raise, especially considering the economy we're in, but hopefully events that we will be holding soon will give people the opportunity to help out, even in small ways."

Later in the spring, Pi Kappa Phi will be holding promotional evenings March 21 at Shakespeare's Pizza and April 7 at Noodles & Company, from which 25 percent of all profits will be given to PUSH America, a percentage that Poehler said is unheard of for a business to donate.

"Connecting with businesses has really helped us spread the word for the organization, and we've been able to get many things donated to the philanthropy too," Poehler said.

Pi Kappa Phi will also be hosting a burger night later in the semester, and all proceeds will be given to PUSH America.

"It's all about getting people excited about the events and getting people to come out," Landwehr said.

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