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Huntington plays host to cross-country cycling team

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 12:22 AM

HUNTINGTON -- There was no way Cathy Hutchinson, director of vocational services for employment at the Mountain State Center for Independent Living, was going to miss dinner at the center along 4th Avenue on Wednesday evening.

In fact, Hutchinson was so dedicated to the event that she didn't even let her ongoing recovery from a recent open heart surgery keep her from coming to the event, where 28 cyclists and crew members from the 26th annual Journey of Hope met with consumers from the center for an old-fashioned meet-and-greet over dinner.

The visit marked the 11th year that a Journey of Hope team visited the center and met with its consumers, said Hutchinson.

"They just touch my heart every year," said Hutchinson. "They always are the most incredible young men you can find. They are so nice, so interesting, so conversational and so in tune with people with disabilities. They are respectful, and they make the differences between them and the people they are talking to disappear."

The Journey of Hope is a nine-week, 4,000-mile cycling event across the country to raise funds and awareness for people with disabilities, said Taylor Thompson, the communications manager for the visiting team.

The journey consists of three teams of cyclists and crew members, all of whom are members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity from throughout the country, said Thompson. The event is one of several fundraising ventures by Push America, the fraternity's nonprofit organization.

Those teams have three separate starting points along the western coast of the United States, and they will reconvene at the end of their journey on Aug. 10 in Washington, D.C.

The group that visited Huntington was the TransAmerica team, which takes a more central route across the country. The other two teams take more northern and southern-oriented routes, said Thompson.

The TransAmerica team has averaged more than 80 miles of travel per day since they left Seattle on June 5, said Thompson.

The team stops each day to visit with local organizations and charities that the Journey of Hope benefits.

Last year, the journey raised $1,760 for the center's Huntington and Beckley locations.

"We raise funds in order to even be able to participate in the journey," said Thompson. "When we get to visit with people, it makes it more than just fundraising. We are putting a face to every dollar we raised, and that connection you make when you get to talk to all of these people in person is the most important thing."

For more information about the Mountain State Centers for Independent Living, visit www.mtstcil.org.

For more information about The Journey of Hope, visit www.pushamerica.org.

Follow Lacie Pierson via Twitter @LaciePiersonHD.

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