PSNI gets a special visit from some old friends

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  • (Photo by MARY MALONE) Sierra with Panhandle Special Needs was dressed for the occasion as the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a dance party Thursday.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) Journey of Hope team members created a tunnel for the crew from Panhandle Special Needs during a dance party when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit and dance party Thursday as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew danced the afternoon away with Journey of Hope team members when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit Thursday as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) Bobby with Panhandle Special Needs learned a few beats Thursday when the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a dance party as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew danced the afternoon away with Journey of Hope team members when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit Thursday.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew wave goodbye after the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a friendship visit Thursday as the team makes its way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

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    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by Panhandle Special Needs for a friendship visit Thursday as the team makes its way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

  • (Photo by MARY MALONE) Sierra with Panhandle Special Needs was dressed for the occasion as the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a dance party Thursday.

  • 1

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) Journey of Hope team members created a tunnel for the crew from Panhandle Special Needs during a dance party when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit and dance party Thursday as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

  • 2

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew danced the afternoon away with Journey of Hope team members when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit Thursday as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

  • 3

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) Bobby with Panhandle Special Needs learned a few beats Thursday when the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a dance party as they make their way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

  • 4

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew danced the afternoon away with Journey of Hope team members when the cycling team stopped for a friendship visit Thursday.

  • 5

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Panhandle Special Needs crew wave goodbye after the Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by for a friendship visit Thursday as the team makes its way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

  • 6

    (Photo by MARY MALONE) The Journey of Hope cycling team stopped by Panhandle Special Needs for a friendship visit Thursday as the team makes its way across the country on a mission to spread awareness and raise funds for those with disabilities.

SANDPOINT — Karaoke was sung and dances were plentiful as the Panhandle Special Needs, Inc., group taught some moves to the Journey of Hope cycling team Thursday.

Likewise, the cyclists taught the special needs group a few moves as they got down to songs like "Sweet Caroline," "Moves like Jagger," the "Macarena" and more, dancing non-stop for nearly two-hours — except maybe to grab an ice cream.

"We are just people who are trying to make a difference and support the cause," said Jacob Beale, public relations crew member with Journey of Hope.

The Journey of Hope team stopped in Sandpoint Thursday for a visit with about 50 PSNI clients as the cyclists make their way across the country on a 4,370-mile trip. The group of 30 cyclists and eight crew members is one of three Journey of Hope teams on a mission to spread awareness and raise money for people with disabilities.

"And they live, breath and eat that mission," said Jean Post, PSNI employment services administrator. "And they are just so good with people from all walks of life. It's not one population, they are just really, really fine young men."

Along the way, the teams stop for "friendship visits" like the one at PSNI. Sometimes they play basketball, sometimes they have lunch — sometimes they have a dance party. Thursday marked the fourth year PSNI clients enjoyed a visit by a Journey of Hope team. Post said the group looks forward to the visits each year.

"It kicks off the summer," she said.

Last year, since the weather was a bit nicer, they had a carnival-style visit. Beale said he just finished his freshman year at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, so it is his first year on the trip. But a few members have participated in previous years, he said.

Beale said the team just met each other a couple weeks ago, since no more than three or four team members come from a single school. They come from all over the country, and not all of the team members are still in school. Cyclist Scott Finney, for example, graduated from college in 2002. He was in the fraternity and has always known about the Journey of Hope, he said, but after a national convention last year, decided to start training.

He said the trip has, so far, been an "incredible" experience.

"It's extremely challenging and extremely rewarding," Finney said.

Organized by The Ability Experience, the Journey of Hope team consists of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity men from across the country. The team will cycle an average of 75 miles per day ending in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 12. Every cyclist commits to raising a minimum of $5,500 on behalf of people with disabilities in hopes to enhance their quality of life.

PSNI is dedicated to creating opportunities for people with disabilities living in Bonner and Boundary counties by providing quality services that maximize the economic and social integration of people with disabilities. There are two distinct programs at PSNI, Post said. One is vocational, covering aspects of employment, and the second is independent living skills. PSNI has been around for 40 years, she said, and currently serves 100 clients in different programs, both at PSNI and in the community.

The mission of The Ability Experience is to use shared experiences to support people with disabilities and develop the men of Pi Kappa Phi into servant leaders. The Ability Experience organizes Journey of Hope and two other large service projects each summer, and is the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi. Founded in 1977, the Ability Experience is committed to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. The Ability Experience has raised over $15 million in its 40-year history.

At about $650,000 already raised this year, Beale said the Ability Experience is on track to break a record, hoping to raise more than $700,000.

Before the team departed, team member Matt Sutter presented Post with a T-shirt, recognizing her and PSNI as honorary team members.

"We'll remember this for the rest of our lives, all these visits that we've had," Sutter said of all the special people the team has met along the way.

Information: panhandlespecialneeds.org and abilityexperience.org

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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