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GMC News

Life and Service – A Pleasantly Never-ending Cycle (Ride)

(Milledgeville, GA) February 24, 2004 – For 14 years, David Hohnadel has had a dream, and in May it will be fulfilled as he rides a bicycle 800 miles in Gear Up Florida for Push America. This extraordinary team event, with only 35 riders, was created in 1997, and is one of two cycling events to benefit Push America, the national philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi. The dual purpose of the event is to actively demonstrate the precepts of life-long service held by the fraternity members and to reinforce their dedication as they fulfill the organization’s charge.

The mission of Push America is “building leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today,” however David is most certainly already a leader of today. A member of Pi Kappa Phi for 16 years, he serves as Regional Governor, a volunteer position in which he oversees 13 chapters, 70 other volunteers (chapter advisors and alumni), and nearly 800 undergraduate fraternity members. Also treasurer of GC&SU’s Pi Kappa Phi alumni chapter, he is planning the commemorative activities for the chapter’s 20th anniversary. In addition, he is the Vice President of Information Technology at Georgia Military College, husband and father, member of the Tennille Baptist Church Choir, and he is renovating a house. Moreover, in January 2004, David was honored by Georgia Military College with The Distinguished Order of the Servant-Leader, an element of GMC’s character development program which is presented to a member of the school’s student body, faculty or staff, who has contributed over one hundred hours of selfless service to the community within one year. So, with clearly a full life already, the obvious question is: Why? Why does he want to ride a bicycle the better part of a thousand miles from Miami to Tallahassee?

The answer to that question is as plain as plain can be to Mr. Hohnadel. “Service is a very big part of me and who I am,” he states. “I’m always hungry for the satisfaction I get in helping another individual, whether it be delivering a message about alcohol awareness or about hazing at a local fraternity or presenting information about Push America to the community, or interacting with people with disabilities. That feeling of making a difference, touching someone’s heart or inspiring another into action is something that I crave. I continue to do more because I continue to receive more, and so it is a never-ending cycle.” Or, to be more specific, a cycle-ride come May.

David has been training for his trek for 3 months; 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, and riding between 15 and 20 miles a day, with an occasional 40 to 50-mile trip on Saturday. He has had to totally rework his life, which has included making dietary changes, scheduling time to ride each day, getting up earlier, and hitting the road later – all part of his commitment to fulfill his goal.

Since the 7th grade, David has been involved with Special Olympics, visited nursing homes and spent a lot of time with people with disabilities. In college he joined Pi Kappa Phi because of their national service organization, Push America. “I already had an understanding of their mission, and I wanted to continue my service,” David said. “Since being an undergraduate, I’ve had the desire to do one of the rides for Push America. The Journey of Hope is the largest ride, but it takes 60 days and they ride all the way across the United States. I thought this was just too much time away from my family and from work. Gear Up Florida is only 2 weeks, which will be much easier time-wise, but requires just as much commitment.”

Although accomplishing the actual riding will be great in and of itself, David says he is really looking forward to the daily “Friendship Visits” to centers for people with disabilities. He explained, “The daily visits may include a pool party, playing basketball, dancing, or merely spending one-on-one time with someone. That interaction with the children and adults is what this trip is all about. After a long 80-mile ride, those moments will wash the road off (figuratively), making the tough times on the road not so significant. No one comes back from these rides the same and if you do then you probably weren’t there for the right reasons.”

By participating in Gear Up Florida, David intends to raise understanding and awareness that there are people in our community who could use assistance. In addition to the physical commitment he has made to make the team, David must raise $1,800 by mid April, however he has set a personal goal of raising $5,000 by May 12th, which is the date he will fly to Miami to prepare for the 16-day trek. The money raised will support Push America’s projects and programs, with the majority going toward building projects, such as, handicapable playgrounds and play units for severely handicapped persons, as well as wheelchair ramps.

David is excited but realistic about the undertaking he has before him. He will be away from his family during the ride and says, “The reunion with my family will be a highlight of the event and that is what I focus on now – the excitement that I’ll have in seeing them at the end of the ride, the sense of accomplishment, the memories of interactions with children and adults who we spent time with during the Friendship Visits.” With the long but fulfilling Floridian miles behind him, David plans to ride (in a car) back to his home with his wife, Beth (nee Harrelson), and 4-year-old daughter, Grace.

David will undoubtedly have many tales to tell when he finishes his Gear Up Florida ride, but maybe most telling about the type of person David is, and about his dedication to service for others, is best shown when he says, “I hope to come back understanding life differently, and perhaps one day I will write a book about my experiences and outlook. I enjoy doing things that are unexpected.”

Those who know David know that he will certainly keep on riding his chosen path of assistance to others, and that his quiet touching of lives will continue – that is a given. And, just as certainly, the triumphs of David’s rides won’t be unexpected.

If you would like to donate to David’s Gear Up Florida ride, email him at dhohnade@gmc.cc.ga.us.

Editor’s Note: Since 1997, over 175 Pi Kappa Phis have participated in Gear Up Florida. Last year’s team raised nearly $75,000 on behalf of Push America. For additional information about Push America, visit www.pushamerica.com.

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