Members of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi are spending 43 days of their summer vacation helping to Build America projects in several locations across the U.S.
Each of the 17 members had to raise at least $3,500 to participate in the summer service projects. They arrived in Salt Lake City on Sunday and ended a five-day stay at Camp Kostopulos Friday. The camp serves people with a variety of disabilities.
The fraternity members came from 12 colleges and universities across the country. Many joined the fraternity because of its association with Build America, an organization established by the fraternity to help groups and individuals with disabilities. The members travel across the country to make camps more accessible for such people.
At Camp Kostopulos, the 17 men spent their time fixing an accessibility course, rebuilding a rock wall and retrofitting the upper ropes course. While the fraternity members were fixing up the camp, they also were given opportunities to spend time with the campers. The campers there during the week were people with neurofibromatosis, a condition caused by the formation of tumors on nerve cells.
"One of the most rewarding aspects is not building the physical things; it's the lifelong friendships you build," said Tyler Quinn, the group's spokesman. "The smiles on their faces make the work worthwhile."
The campers at Kostopulos invited the fraternity members to a dance. Quinn related a rewarding experience that created for the workers. Miguel Salazar, a fraternity member, asked a girl in a wheelchair to dance with him and proceeded to hold her hands and dance, letting her know the workers truly cared about the campers.
"We showed them that we can have a good time, and then we can see the smiles on their faces," Salazar said.
The fraternity members also attended a campfire with s'mores and singing. The next day they went to a rodeo with the campers. On their final night at Camp Kostopulos, they participated in a skit and awards night.
Salazar said the satisfaction comes from being with the campers, not from donating time and money to the camps. Sometimes they get attached to the campers, who don't want them to go when their time is completed, he said.
Gary Ethington, executive director for the Kostopulos Dream Foundation, thanked the fraternity members for their dedication to the needs of the disabled.
"They've joined a group with a great cause that not many people support," Ethington remarked. "There are not many college guys that would do that."Next week the fraternity members are heading to Empire, Colo., where they will help with projects at Rocky Mountain Village.