Friday, July 19, 2024

PSNI hosts cross-country cyclists raising awareness for disabilities

by KATHY HUBBARD / Contributing Writer
| June 23, 2024 1:00 AM

It’s called Journey of Hope and the clients at Panhandle Special Needs were out in full force Thursday, June 13, in hopes of having fun with a group of college students cycling across the country. Members of Pi Kappa Phi, representing several colleges and universities across the U.S., embarked on The Ability Experience in Seattle bound for Washington, D.C. with stops in communities across the nation to promote awareness for those with disabilities.

The clients arrived early at the Elks Golf Club to set up for the lunch they were to share with the fraternity brothers. The waiting time was filled with a few card games, a hot game of Yahtzee, and camaraderie among the clients. The room was filled with laughter and conversations.

“We do this every year,” a client named Rose told me. “I like it until it gets too loud.” One named Marcia said, “The best part is you get out of your classes. But the teachers still come around and tell us what to do.” Another told me that the best part was hanging out with her friends and eating the pulled pork sandwiches, salad and chips that were going to be served, while another said, “We always have the same thing!”

At noon, the clients lined up to give a hearty reception to the cyclists who took two turns around the Elk’s entrance to cheers and high-fives. The Pi Kaps, as they’re known, looked as happy to see the clients as the clients were to see them. Not one of them looked worse for wear after cycling the 50 miles from Coeur d’Alene that morning. All looked ready to eat and party.

Besides having lunch, the afternoon included music and dancing to DJ Tyler Smith. He’s a PSNI graduate which means he now, thanks to PSNI’s life skills training and employment services, can live independently while working full time. “I like all kinds of music, and I do this as a hobby,” he said. “I like to see everyone have a good time.”

Staff member, Christy Morgan, said that each client has a back story, and each one has a different level of ability. One client who had moved away with his family called PSNI to ask, “Can I come back? There aren’t services here for people like me.” PSNI staff arranged the details.

A hearing-impaired client who wanted to take advantage of the classes and employment opportunities was able to do so with an American Sign Language interpreter. Some clients work at PSNI’s in-house programs while others work in the community.

“Sandpoint is an amazing community that supports our program in many ways, but employment is a big one,” Trinity Nicholson, PSNI’s executive director said. “We have clients working at grocery stores, the cinema, in local restaurants, with parks and recreation, landscaping and much more.”

Each story they learn along the way reinforces Pi Kappa Phi’s commitment to bringing awareness to the abilities of those with disabilities. The staff and clients at Panhandle Special Needs, Inc. wish these extraordinary young men a safe and fun ride across America on their Journey of Hope. For more information about PSNI go to