Brothers tackle cross-country charity ride
Jeffrey and Jonathan Michaud pose at the end of the 2017 Journey of Hope in Washington, D.C. - photo by For the FCN

In June 2018, two Forsyth County brothers will start the journey of a lifetime: biking from coast to coast to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities. 

Jeffrey and Jonathan Michaud are both graduates of North Forsyth High School, both students of the University of North Georgia, both members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and are both very excited to be participating in the 2018 Journey of Hope.

“We are both super stoked,” said Jonathan Michaud.

“Beyond excited,” said Jeffrey Michaud. 

“And when I told my grandfather, he flipped out,” he laughed. 

The Journey of Hope, a 4,200 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., was started in 1987 by Pi Kappa Phi’s philanthropic organization, The Ability Experience. 

Its aim is to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities by travelling across the country by bike and interacting with local communities along the way.  

Each day on the two-month trip, Jeffrey and Jonathan Michaud will spend upwards of 10 hours riding with their group, covering an average of 70 miles a day. 

Any off-time the brothers have will be spent doing “friendship visits,” meeting with communities of individuals who have disabilities to share a meal or a fun activity, and educating people on the abilities and stigmas of people with disabilities.

Jonathan Michaud, a 23-year-old senior at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, took the ride last year and worked as one of the rides many support crew members. 

He said that these friendship visits are why he is returning to the ride for a second year. 

“I didn’t really know why I was doing it last year,” he said. 

“I saw an opportunity to do something that not a lot of people get to do and I took it. But this year I’m doing it for the people I met,” Jonathan Michaud said. 

He said he has seen how people succeed and how they fail while making this trip. He says this year he plans on taking their examples and using them for himself. 

“It’s definitely not an easy trip,” he said. “But the physical part isn’t even the hardest. On a long trip like that you get to a mental breaking point and everyone has their own mental threshold,” he said.

To prepare for the trip, the brothers spent countless hours on the bike and in the weight room making sure their bodies are ready for the challenge. 

Jonathan Michaud said he has also started preparing mentally for the trip by considering what drew him to the ride in the first place. 

“I have always liked doing things that push me out of my comfort zone. And I had never really traveled out of Georgia, so when they asked for volunteers I stepped up,” he said. 

He said that during each friendship visit in the trip last year, he made friends and met people he will remember for the rest of his life. 

These interactions are what he thinks are going to keep him going when things get tough.

“You get to know them for the people they are, and not the disability they have,” he said.      

His brother, Jeffrey, is a 21-year-old junior at the University of North Georgia and said he agrees with his brother on why he is making the trip. 

“I picked up biking while [Jonathan] was away, and I decided to do this to show show … that people with disabilities are people too,” he said. “Ultimately I’m doing it for them.”

According to Jonathan Michaud, the ride annually raises more than $500,000 to be given out as grants to local organizations along the route. 

This year, the brothers hope to raise even more than last year, and they are well on their way. 

So far the brothers have raised about 10 percent of their donation goal, but both expect to have raised the full amount by June.  

“Jonathan is dealing with the local businesses and getting donations from them, and I’m dealing with stuff up on campus in Dahlonega,” Jeffrey Michaud said. 

“Everyone has been great so far though,” he said.