A group of fraternity brothers cycling across the country to raise support for Alzheimer's disease research got a warm welcome Thursday during a brief return to Bowling Green.
A total of 14 members of Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji, left Bowling Green in mid-May to begin their 3,600-mile journey from Seattle to Virginia Beach, Va. Friends, family and public officials came out to a street festival at Fountain Square Park to congratulate the cyclists.
"It's certainly a worthy cause," said Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green. "There still needs to be a lot of research into Alzheimer's. I know some of the young men who rode ... I admire them for doing this."
The effort is lead by Bike4Alz, a nonprofit based in Bowling Green that started after a rider's grandparent passed away from the disease. So far, the group has traveled through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. They'll continue on their journey after stops for fundraising events in Elizabethtown, Louisville and Lexington.
Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and Mayor Pro Tem Melinda Hill read a joint city-county proclamation declaring it Phi Gamma Delta Bike4Alz Day.
"The big thing we've learned ... is just that not a lot of people feel the urgency behind Alzheimer's funding and Alzheimer's research," said Taylor Leigh, Phi Gamma Delta's president.
The group is trying to raise $100,000 for Alzheimer's research and has raised about $15,000 toward that goal so far. The event Thursday was intended to raise $2,500.
However, Leigh said the group learned raising awareness can be just as important as raising money. Doing that raises the gravity of the disease in people's minds and helps build support for Alzheimer's research, he said.
Josh Hicks, a senior from Owensboro, said experiencing Alzheimer's in his own family was the main reason he decided to embark on the trip.
When a family member begins to "lose their own thoughts," family members have to starting making difficult decisions.
"It kind of just creates friction among family," he said.
Daniel Aroh, a junior from Louisville, hadn't experienced Alzheimer's disease until he visited a nursing home along the way.
"It's really tough, but it really motivated me," he said. "The next day I biked as hard as I could."
– To support Bike4Alz visit www.bike4alz.org/about-us/ or mail a check to 1311 College Street Bowling Green, KY, 42104.
— Follow reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @aaron_muddbgdn or visit bgdailynews.com.