Ethan Hyde knows that having one leg never held his grandfather back.
He remembers the man in a wheelchair who kept a positive attitude and strong values despite having lost a leg in a farming accident in the mid-1980s.
This summer, Hyde, 22, will use his two legs to raise awareness for people with disabilities by pedaling across the country in the Push America Journey of Hope.
The annual Journey of Hope cross-country cycling event began in 1987 as an awareness campaign for the message of Push America, an organization for people with disabilities founded by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Hyde, a Forsyth Central High School alumnus, said the fraternity’s nonprofit is the main reason he joined the group at the University of Georgia. He’d never planned to go Greek, but the philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi sparked his interest.
The Journey of Hope, for him, embodies that commitment to service and awareness for people with disabilities.
“We don’t say a disabled person. It’s a person with disabilities. They’re people first,” Hyde said. “That’s the message we like to get across.”
He’ll be spreading that word from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington D.C., as he travels the journey’s southern route, which is about 4,000 miles in two months.
Along the way, the 80 cyclists on three routes will make stops for “friendship visits” with clinics or nonprofits for people with disabilities.
“A lot of people have told me it’s a life-changing experience,” Hyde said. “Seeing them and interacting with them is going to be very eye-opening.”
Forsyth County resident Scott Sewell, who completed the trek in 1999, was one of the many to give Hyde that advice.
“You see what you would consider a disability, but that person does not consider a disability,” Sewell said. “You realize if you have half the heart that they do, it’d be amazing what most folks could accomplish.”
Following his experiences on the journey, Sewell has donated to the cause, often gifting the money in the name of a cyclist from Georgia if he can.
This year, he noticed a rider not just from his state, but one who lived right around the corner. That’s when he connected with Hyde.
Sewell hopes to attend the friendship visit in Cumming this year, in which Hyde and others on the southern route will stop at Stars & Strikes in July to meet with North Metro Miracle League children.
Hyde said the stops in Cumming and Athens — his two homes — were the reasons he wanted to complete the southern route.
He’ll launch the journey on June 7 and is scheduled to stop in Cumming on July 22.
By then, Hyde figures he’ll be adept at pedaling the average 60 miles each day.
He’s heard the first two weeks are the toughest, and people who train hard will have a much easier and better time.
To that effect, Hyde has been preparing since he heard he’d be going on the journey in July by running, lifting weights and conditioning on a stationary bike.
This January, he purchased a bicycle, something he hadn’t ridden in years.
His first ride was about eight miles round trip to a special home.
He visited his grandmother, whose late husband provided the inspiration for Hyde to embark on such a long journey.
“My grandfather was a really good man,” Hyde said. “This is my way to say thank you to him.”