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Saugus grads gear up for bike trek across US

Two men riding in support of people with disabilities

Posted: March 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Aaron Hasson rides his bike through Rio Norte Drive on Monday. He is rasing money for the organization Push America, benefiting people with disabilities. He will be cycling over 4,000 miles from Seattle to Washington D.C. to raise awareness for the cause. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo.

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Two Santa Clarita Valley college men are cycling across America in support of people with disabilities — each inspired locally by those who demonstrated they can rise above their handicaps.

Aaron Hasson and Brandon Ratner graduated from Saugus High School, class of 2008 and 2012, respectively. But it wasn’t until they picked the same college fraternity and ended up training for the same fraternity-backed charity that they met each other.

The duo found the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, found its annual Push America cause, and found each other.

Hasson is cycling 4,600 miles in support of people with disabilities, but he only had to cross the grocery store aisle in Valencia to understand what overcoming a handicap is all about.

For six years, he worked with a woman at an Albertsons store on Copper Hill Drive who daily, courageously, rises above the limitations of her disability, he said. Now she’s become the inspiration for his upcoming cross-country summer-long commitment.

The young woman, who still works at Albertsons, competes in the Special Olympics and still stays in touch with Hasson.

“She makes an impact on my life,” he told The Signal Monday. “When I saw the Push Americas’ cause, I knew who I would dedicate my ride to.”

Push America is a nonprofit still run exclusively by the fraternity with the purpose of “instilling lifelong service in our fraternity members and serving people with disabilities,” according to its website.

Ratner is cycling the same route — also expecting to log about 100 miles of cycling a day across 32 states — because of what he learned while coaching participants in the Special Olympics Santa Clarita Valley acouple of years ago.

“I was attracted to how much fun they had,” he said, reflecting on what stood out to him about the Special Olympics. “What impressed me most was that they had such a great time.”

Ratner coached floor hockey and basketball during the local games.

In November, while training for the Push America journey, Hasson and Ratner met for the first time.

“We turned down internships. We turned down jobs for this event,” Hasson said. “We do it because we stand up for what it means.”

Every year, each member of Pi Kappa Phi who wants to participate in the Journey of Hope ride must raise at least $5,500 to take part in the event.

And every year, between 70 and 100 fraternity “brothers” cycle along one of three routes, all of them meeting in Washington, D.C., in August at the same time.

This year, Hasson and Ratner will join other cycling members in the fraternity as they set out May 22 from Seattle, the longest of the three treks. 

After completing three years at College of the Canyons, Hasson transferred to Arizona State University to pursue a degree in finance. Ratner is now a student at California State University, Long Beach.

“I really wanted to find the right charity,” Ratner said about picking the fraternity. “When I did my research, I decided this is the one for me.”

Push America is the national philanthropy project of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members, raising awareness for people with special disabilities.

What began as a team of 11 team members raising $20,000 in 1987 now involves 35 Pi Kappa Phi fraternity houses and annually raises more than $500,000.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
on Twitter
@jamesarthurholt

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