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Journey of Hope

T.C. grad cycles 4,000 miles for disability awareness.

Alexandria's Louis Barnett, at right, celebrates Aug. 5 with fellow Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers on the West Lawn of the Capitol after completing the 4,000-mile Journey of Hope bike ride.

Alexandria's Louis Barnett, at right, celebrates Aug. 5 with fellow Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers on the West Lawn of the Capitol after completing the 4,000-mile Journey of Hope bike ride. Photo Contributed

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Louis Barnett, center, is surrounded by fellow T.C. Williams High School graduates and childhood friends at his Alexandria home after completing a 4,000-mile charity bike ride. With him are Mike Lawrence, Katie Parkinson, Brett Sirois, Jack Cooper, Lindsay Smith and Robert Purdy.

— As the strains of Bruce Springsteen's “Born in the USA” blared out over crowd, more than 50 friends, family members and fellow T.C. Williams graduates gathered on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Aug. 5 to watch Alexandria's Louis Barnett cross the finish line in the 25th Annual Journey of Hope bike ride across America.

Organized by the nonprofit Push America, Barnett joined more than 100 fellow Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers from across the nation in the 4,000-mile ride to raise money for people with disabilities.

“Virginia roads have these long, slow inclines,” said Barnett, a 2008 graduate of T.C. Williams High School of the last leg of his journey. “I love my state but I was really hating it today.”

Barnett began the nine-week, 4,000-mile trek in Long Beach, Calif., on June 7. Averaging between 60 and 100 miles a day, the group of 38 cyclists tackling the southern route of this year's ride spent their evenings doing Friendship Visits with people with disabilities.

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Alexandria's Louis Barnett, far right in back, celebrates Aug. 5 with fellow Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers on the West Lawn of the Capitol after completing the 4,000-mile Journey of Hope bike ride.

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Louis Barnett celebrates in front of the U.S. Capitol Aug. 5 after completing a 4,000-mile bike ride across the United States as part of Push America's Journey of Hope.

“The visits were the best part of the trip,” Barnett said. “We were able to engage with the people we were riding for and got to learn about them and their lifestyles.”

Barnett's team, along with members of the TransAmerica and northern route teams, raised more than $675,000 in donations for Push America, an organization founded in 1987 to promote awareness for people living with disabilities. To date, the nonprofit has raised more than $15 million.

“It was a mentally and physically draining experience,” Barnett said. “But I would definitely encourage other members of the fraternity to do it.”

A recent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Barnett leaves this week for Michigan State where he will study law.

“It was an incredible feeling seeing the crowds waiting for us at the Capitol,” Barnett said. “But the best was when, in these throngs of people, I heard a voice calling out my name and turned to see my mother's smiling face. This has been an incredible experience and I'm glad I did it, but it's always good to be home.”