Journey of Hope: A UTSA students mission for increased awareness

by Matt RoyWed, July 12th 2023

SAN ANTONIO – “Hello everybody. This is Jackson Escamilla reporting from the wonderful state of Nevada.”

Each year, a group of college students bike across the country to raise awareness for those with disabilities.

It’s called the Journey of Hope.

This year, Jackson Escamilla, a junior at the University of Texas – San Antonio, and dozens of his brothers from around the country in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity are taking part in the trip.

“We get to, pretty much, bike ride across the country,” Escamilla said. “And you might be thinking, like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s going to take you like a year,’ but we are doing it in two months.”

They start in San Francisco, CA, and end up in Washington D.C.

Two months and more than 3,000 miles on a bike is a daunting task.

But for 35 years people have been participating in the Journey of Hope because it is for an important cause.

“It’s pretty much this really unique opportunity to raise awareness for people with disabilities,” Escamilla said.

Throughout the journey, the teams stop in cities for friendship visits – where they will meet with groups of people with disabilities.

“Yesterday we did an award ceremony for an all-inclusive softball league, Escamilla said. “There was like four or five teams and that was just amazing.”

For many riders, these friendship visits are what keeps them going: A reminder of why they are riding.

And while it does that for Jackson as well, he has a different inspiration.

“I have a twin brother. I am older by two minutes,” Escamilla said.

“This is Aidan Escamilla,” said Jackson and Aidan’s father Joaquin.

Aidan was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome: a rare disorder characterized by a port-wine facial birthmark.

“Even though they aren’t the typical brothers or bond that brothers have, I think that they do understand each other in a way that we can’t fully understand,” Jackson and Aidan’s mother Aimee Escamilla said.

Jackson is Aidan’s champion. It’s a twin thing. And being twins, they are never apart for long.

“I asked Jackson to give me a little video of him prior to him taking off in San Francisco so we have that and we play that for him,” Aimee said.

“Hi Aidan, I am here in San Francisco,” Jackson said in his video to Aidan. “I miss you tons. You’re the best brother ever. I’m doing this for you.”

3,000 miles is not easy. So, while he’s riding, Jackson continually repeats things to himself to remind him to keep going.

“So, one of the things I say is, ‘I’m doing this for Aidan, I’m doing this for kids with disabilities, I’m doing this for Aidan,’” Jackson said.

“He has expressed it to me that he feels that he was put on this world to make a difference,” Joaquin said.

He still has thousands of miles to go till he gets to D.C.

But when he gets there Aimee and Joaquin will be waiting. And Aidan will be waiting with arms wide open to welcome his brother.

“Aidan does some incredible hugs,” Joaquin said. “I would imagine that Aidan will hug Jackson pretty fiercely, as Jackson will.”

“You’re the best,” Jackson said in his video to Aidan. “I love you tons, later”

If you’d like to donate to Jackson Escamilla and help him with his Journey, click here.