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Indiana University of Pennsylvania students biking to raise money for veterans

| Friday, May 7, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

While many of their fellow students will be celebrating the end of classes this coming week, four Indiana University of Pennsylvania students, all members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, will be "Riding for a Reason" - spending five days on the road, biking to Washington, D.C. in order to raise funds for wounded military veterans and their families.

The fraternity has enlisted four bikers to make the 325-mile trek to Washington, D.C.: Ken Nutter, a senior anthropology major, of Greensburg; Kyle Lewis, a junior criminology major from Kittanning, who has served in Iraq as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, 56th Stryker Brigade; Kevin Martincic, a senior criminology student and member of the U.S. Marine Corps, of Pittsburgh; and Tony Bongiovano, of York, a sophomore exercise science major.

The men will depart Monday from Pittsburgh. They'll follow the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Md., where they'll switch to the C&O Canal path, which will lead them into D.C.

The trip will take five days to accomplish. The students plan to nourish themselves during the day with protein shakes and bars, then have dinner at various towns located along trailheads. Their nights will be spent camping out along the trail.

The bikers have been training on and off for the past month in order to acclimate themselves to the terrain and distance they'll experience en route to the nation's capital.

Cody Inman of Perryopolis, the Kappa Sigma chapter president, just finished his junior year as a pre-law criminology major. He s been a member of Kappa Sigma since he was a freshman.

Inman said this is the first year Kappa Sigma has taken on Riding for a Reason, an idea that developed from the chapter's annual philanthropy meeting.

Nutter, knowing that many of the chapter's members bike during the summer months, suggested a bike trip to raise money for a non-profit of the chapter's choosing.

"We thought to get a national campaign going, so we contacted the national headquarters, let them know our intentions, and they thought it was a great idea," Inman said. "We got the go-ahead from them and started planning."

"We figured, Let's see how it goes, plan it, and maybe this will become an annual thing for us."

Inman and a few other chapter members will be following the bikers in a vehicle packed with first-aid equipment and any other supplies the bikers might need but can't carry on their own.

"We'll meet them at trail heads," Inman said. "In case anything goes wrong, we'll be there."

The bikers will be picked up in Washington, D.C. by a fellow fraternity brother to make the trip back to Indiana.

In order to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation through Riding for a Reason, chapter members reached out to several different local organizations for private donations.

A large portion of the money raised, though, came from a philanthropic, non-alcoholic mix-off event held on campus, where various organizations on campus were asked to dream up and concoct a non-alcoholic drink that fit a board game theme.

The Kappa Sigma brothers were assigned Monopoly as their themed drink, so they created a beverage from Hawaiian Punch, pineapple juice and Sprite, topping it off with whipped cream, so when you drink it, you get that Monopoly man mustache, Inman said.

Those who attended the mix-off could sample the drinks and were asked to place money in jars to count as votes. At the end of the day, the winning organization not only got to keep the money from its own jar, but also the money from all other participants' jars, as well as the entrance fee money each organization paid.

Kappa Sigma's concoction, which they had dubbed Bleed Greed, ended up the winner, and the brothers earned $780 toward their charitable goal.

Their total so far this year has reached about $1,000. According to Nutter, the participants expect more contributions after the trek, with many people pledging donations per mile traveled during the five-day excursion.

Kappa Sigma Fraternity raised $140,000 last year as a whole, and is hoping to reach a total of $200,000 for this year.

The Fisher House Foundation is a partner through the Kappa Sigma Military Heroes Campaign. Though the fraternity has donated to other charitable organizations throughout the year, the Fisher House Foundation will be the sole recipient of the money raised through Riding for a Reason.

The Foundation provides housing to wounded veterans and their families during their times of rehabilitation after they return to the United States.

"They help them and their families while they're getting relocated and acclimated to normal society again," Inman said.

The Foundation currently has 45 Fisher Houses located on 18 military installations and at 15 Veterans Administration medical centers, with more houses being built.

A house is currently being built in the D.C. area, and the Kappa Sigma brothers were given naming rights to the house because of their support of the Fisher House Foundation. They plan on naming the house The Robert J. Dole Fisher House, after Kappa Sigma alumnus Bob Dole.

Originally, the fraternity members had planned on delivering the check directly to the site, but because the groundbreaking for the house has been delayed, they'll be mailing the check instead.

"I'm really excited," Inman said about this inaugural trek by the Kappa Sigma brothers. "I'm really proud of my chapter. We hope everything goes well and we re looking forward to doing this again in the future."

"And hopefully, this will help the community see us in a different light - they'll know that Greek life does positive things."

For more information on The future Robert J. Dole Fisher House, visit http://kappasigma.org/content/fisher-house-washington-dc-veterans-hospital-be-dedicated-honor-senator-robert-j-dole .

Anyone wishing to donate to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity for Riding for a Reason, or to make a direct donation to the Fisher House Foundation, visit online at http://www.active.com/donate/2011MilitaryHeroes/KappaTheta .

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