"All humans have a need to feel connected, accepted and included. No human wants to feel isolated, rejected or left out. It is through our relationships with other humans that we find acceptance and inclusion. The Ability Experience is about spreading a message of acceptance and understanding on behalf of people with disabilities by building relationships of inclusion. These relationships of inclusion help our members at Challenge Enterprises build their personal net worth by building their network and illuminating their journey, as they chase their own dreams."
Stephanie Young, Challenge Enterprises
The Ability Experience is a philanthropic service organization created by the national Pi Kappa Phi men’s fraternity. Through shared experiences, our goal is to positively impact people with disabilities and inspire servant leadership in the men of Pi Kappa Phi.
Like so many event-based organizations, The Ability Experience was forced to reformat all fundraising and awareness-raising activities this summer.
• Cross-country bike rides went virtual, utilizing indoor options and online programming.
• Week-long team-based construction projects became individual efforts.
• Friendship Visits – meaningful in-person interactions between our team-members and friends with disabilities, interactions that engaged over 10,000 individuals last summer – went virtual.
o dance parties
o talent shows
o BINGO and more all on Zoom.
During these months of quarantine mandated by the COVID pandemic, we have become increasingly aware of the dire effects that isolation has on those in the disability community. This in turn, can impact the well-being of the individual and can compound any underlying mental health issues.
• Imagine how overwhelming technology must be.
• Imagine the confusion felt when safe places become difficult to access.
• Imagine the loneliness when inclusionary relationships evaporate.
• Imagine how feelings of isolation must be growing exponentially.
Combatting these struggles defines our purpose.
In May, The Ability Experience kicked off its first virtual cycling event, Gear Up Florida. Traditionally this has been an 870-mile journey across Florida embarked upon by active members of the fraternity and including daily Friendship Visits with organizations across the state that serve the disability community. Virtual Gear Up Florida did not let anybody down. Nor did Virtual Journey of Hope, the traditional cross-country ride. Through the summer more than 15,000 miles were cycled and nearly 1,000 lives were touched through virtual Friendship Visits.
The following story, shared by one of our partner organizations, truly reflects the impact that the young men of Pi Kappa Phi have had this summer:
"Prior to Gear Up Florida (GUF), we had already started daily virtual opportunities for interaction. Our partnership with The Ability Experience gave our membership access to a different view of what a virtual opportunity can be. Up until then, it was only our members interacting with each other or staff. With GUF, the gates were swung wide open and they got to form inclusionary relationships with people outside of our organization.
We have a member who is a genius trapped in his own world. Gary spends almost all his time drawing complex maps and diagrams but will occasionally use sign language to communicate briefly with a few select people. During the Virtual Friendship Visit, we allowed each member to introduce themselves if they wanted to. I was surprised when Gary came up to the camera, signed his name and then looked right at me as he signed, “It’s time to ride!” He repeated this sign over and over again until I told the GUF team that he wanted to see them ride. The very next day, I got a picture of him in the trainer with a message that he had been pedaling away for most of the morning and asking when the GUF team was going to ride again. Inclusion Revolution!!!!"
This is one story among many. But it is not nearly enough.
We need YOUR help to reach more people like Gary. Individuals with disabilities are feeling so isolated and alone and you can make a difference in their lives. YOU can connect them with the men of Pi Kappa Phi through one of our programs and give the gift of friendship.
Your support through the CFC will ensure that our differently abled friends know with certainty that they will not be left behind.
Thank you for considering The Ability Experience for your charitable contributions this year.