Before embarking on a 3,600-mile bicycle trek to raise support for Alzheimer's disease, Joey Badinger was excited.
Since joining Western Kentucky University's chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, called FIJI, Badinger knew it was a great cause. The Oldham County senior is among the group of 14 fraternity brothers undertaking the journey, which is the longest yet.
"It was just an awesome combination of a great life experience and a great cause," Badinger said of his motivation to get involved.
This is the fraternity's fourth trip for the cause since 2010. It began after a member's grandparent died of the disease and has continued since with many members making their own trips.
Badinger's own grandfather dealt with the disease and died several years ago. It was tough to watch his grandfather "wither away," Badinger said.
"It's a chance for me to remember him," he said.
Badinger and other FIJI brothers gathered at Spencer's Coffee on Sunday for a farewell event before departing on their journey. They plan to drive to Seattle, Wash., before biking to Virginia Beach, Va.
Spencer's Coffee donated 15 percent of sales during the event to the group. Lynda Weeks, of Louisville, was among the group's supporters.
"It just gives people an increased dimension of compassion," she said of the project. "I just think that's real important." Alzheimer's disease is a growing concern with the country's aging population, Weeks said. She was impressed that a group of young college students was willing to take on the challenge.
The group's been training and preparing for the challenge, which involves biking 85 miles a day to complete the journey by July 23.
Tyler Wittner biked with a FIJI group in 2012, and said there's no real way to train for it. The first two weeks were tough, he said, but from then on it was a blast as he talked with his friends around an ever-changing landscape.
Wittner said he learned how to take "no" for answer while asking hundreds of people for Alzheimer's donations a long the way. Wittner said the group ended up raising around $75,000. He described it as an experience that "we can all look back on and be very proud of."
This year, the group is aiming for $100,000 and plans to pass through Denver and St. Louis, among other stops.
Louisville senior Davis Church said Alzheimer's hasn't directly affected his family. However, he has seen it claim the life of a family friend in just two years.
"Just seeing how quickly it took her life was just insane," he said, adding that she passed away only two months ago.
Local attorney Dan Rudloff, who has a son in the fraternity not taking the trip, described Alzheimer's as insidious.
He also said FIJI stands out as a fraternity that isn't about "the next party, but the next service project."
Liberty junior Taylor Leigh is another rider taking the trip and described it as an adventure.
"If I can couple that with helping people and making a difference, it's a no brainer," he said.
— To find out more information or support Bike4Alz visit www.bike4alz.org/.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @aaron_muddbgdn or visit bgdailynews.com.