Doug Miller of Brookfield is bicycling across America this summer to spread a message of acceptance and understanding of people with disabilities.
Miller could have taken a summer job or internship between earning an engineering degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y, and starting graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Instead, he followed his heart with 29 other cyclists from Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Miller's group is one of three fraternity teams cycling from different starting points on the West Coast in early June and scheduled to end up in Washington, D.C., Aug. 5.
They are part of Push America's Journey of Hope, which supports organizations across the U.S. that work with populations with virtually every type of disability. This year's overall fundraising goal is $600,000, and the three teams have already surpassed it.
Miller said individual cyclists are raising more than $5,500.
"I chose Pi Kappa Phi as a fraternity because they are mission-focused," Miller said. "This was the first summer I have been able to do it. It has been a fantastic trip so far."
Miller said the group gets up each day at 5:30 a.m., bikes at least 75 miles and then showers up and participates in a "friendship visit" with an organization that is working with a disabled population. The visits often entail activities such as dance, wheelchair basketball and puppetry to educate children about the abilities of those with disabilities.
Cyclists in Miller's group are supported by eight crew members who provide substance and emergency equipment repair along the way.
Before the cyclists were expected to travel through Michigan and eastward this week, they stopped in Waukesha and Milwaukee. There, Miller was met by his parents, Paul and Anne, and brother, Andy.
"It was great to see them, Miller said. "It had been a while."
Miller's dad said he is not surprised that his son has taken on the challenge.
"He has always been an adventurous guy," said Paul, who pointed to previous adventures including backpacking through Death Valley and scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef.
"Of course, this is something that has a larger purpose," he said. "He is a man for others with a social responsibility. I'd like to think it comes from this mom and dad, and from his church and education."
Miller's sense of responsibility, he said, was honed by attending Marquette University High School.
"We did a lot of service projects while I was there," Miller said. "It was a positive influence. Throughout school I was always given the opportunity to help others."
He pointed to tutoring and a service trip to a working boys center in Ecuador as his high school experiences.
"College also offered me a wealth of opportunities for growth," he said.
Another positive influence is the encouragement from people he has encountered along the journey.
"The reaction of people who ask what we are doing runs the gamut," Miller said. "When they discover why we are doing this, they are amazed."
JOURNEY OF HOPE
LOCAL STOP: While in Waukesha and Milwaukee in mid-July, Brookfield's Doug Miller was among 30 cross-country cyclists who bowled with the Spinal Bifida Association, played wheelchair hockey at the Pettit Ice Center and went on an outing with Girls First, a group affiliated with Independence First.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Police Report: June 18
- Elmbrook surveys for satisfaction
- WisDOT to use Brookfield quarry as clean fill dump for seven years
- Ask NOW: Why can't 16-year-olds check out movies at the Brookfield Public Library?
- Elmbrook named top workplace
- Business Calendar: May 16-29
- Grab a Bite: Jake's: More than just steak and potatoes
- 'Starry Nights' at the Wilson Center starts June 21
- Tree crashes through Brookfield church roof during evening service
- Episcopal church remains vacant after split