Charity riders bike 75 miles in a day, then race kids at Northbrook YMCA

NORTHBROOK — Darren Miller, 20, limped into Northbrook’s North Suburban YMCA recently with a banged up leg and a broken collarbone, but he plans to be back on his bike and riding into Washington D.C. with his pals Aug. 2, no matter what.

“I don’t want to miss one day of this trip,” he said, his right arm in a sling.

Miller is one of a few dozen current members of college fraternity Pi Kappa Phi who roll about 75 miles a day on bicycles to raise money, and awareness, for people with disabilities.

Miller, of Chesapeake, Va., interrupted his 75-day ride with a tumble in Illinois, and started the trip in May “tossing his cookies” over the handlebars.

“It’s the yogurt, dude,” crew leader Kevin Quinn said. “You can’t do dairy.”

The young men ride their own bicycles coast to coast, having raised at least $5,500 each.

When they arrived at the Northbrook Y late on a hot July afternoon, they showered, and most of them jumped in a pool with local kids they’re helping raise money for. Then, it was more than an hour of tearing around the pool racing with kids under the whistling supervision of the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, an organization whose mission is to get everybody into competition, no matter what their challenges. That’s one of the groups that will get “Journey of Hope” money.

“GLASA has been a Godsend for Ben,” Northbrook’s Trish Spengel said of her son, 17, racing against Chris Dourov of Livermore, Calif., and Arizona State. “You need something like this when competition, sports, is in your blood.”

Many of the bikers were neophite riders when they started, but as they visit 63 organizations along the way, they’re sometimes asked to participate in post-ride athletics before bedding down in a place like a North suburban Y gym room.

“I don’t know where they get the energy,” said one of the leaders, logistics coordinator Munib Lohrasbi. “I’m in the van, and I get exhausted.”

It’s part of a great experience, crew member Francis Ahrens said. “I’m frankly shocked that I get to do this,” the West Plains, Mo., man said. “This is just fantastic.”

He said he’s done all kinds of things, like wheelchair basketball, paddleboard and sled hockey, for the first time, often not very well.

“Like, we’ve been asked to a school dance, and our guys go out of their way,” he said.

But it’s not hard to do, he added.

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