Western Fraternity offers help in Georgia communities

Steven Barnum , News editor

Eight men from Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity traveled 13 hours to Rutledge, Ga. for spring break to help people with disabilities through recreational development. There, they met with seven other brothers from across the country to tackle tasks that camp staff needed assistance with over the course of the week.

Members of the fraternity at Western Illinois University tackled projects like tearing down an amphitheater and constructing a new one, creating a wheelchair-accessible ramp so that handicapped individuals can make it around a lake, and planting over 700 flowers to aesthetically contribute to the camp.

In addition to flowers, the group also replaced potato, garlic and other herbs in an area farm. Camp staff informed the volunteers that all the planting they finished in one week could have easily taken them a month. All crops grown on the farm are directly turned into food for the camp as they sustain their own food source. In addition to this, they fixed the fencing that was destroyed by a storm, but according to one member of the fraternity, that wasn’t the only highlight of the trip.

“The most important and amazing time was spent at night with the campers,” Tate Dowell said. “To me, helping people and helping out through the Ability Experience is something I plan to do until the day I die.”

The Ability Experience is a national philanthropy that aims to improve the lives of those with disabilities. Pi Kappa Phi started the philanthropy in 1977, and they are still the only fraternity in the United States that runs its own philanthropy. Dowell recognizes its ability to make a difference in the world.

“It has allowed me to give back to people and help put a smile on the faces of people who need some joy in their life,” Dowell said. “We realize how lucky we are and the Ability Experience gives us a chance to give back to those who don’t have as much as we do.”

When it comes to offering a helping hand to those in need, Dowell doesn’t hesitate to recommend joining a fraternity. He said that the groups on college campuses like Pi Kappa Phi offer a chance to form long-lasting relationships. He also said that anyone who has some extra money should consider donating in order to impact lives like he has been able to do. Phi Kappa Phi gave a $7,500 grant to Camp Twin Lakes.

“I always feel like you should give back whenever you can,” he said. “Giving back to those in need is what truly makes our world so great.”

Through his experience, Dowell said that both he and other members of the fraternity felt gratification from taking part in the mission.

“I was impacted by these campers and that week will change my live forever,” Dowell said.

However, volunteering is nothing new for this group of men. This past year they were awarded the Thomas Sayre Award for most volunteer hours completed per man across the country. This award is given to one of the 187 chapters from across the nation. Through the Ability Experience, Pi Kappa Phi will also be sending four members to participate in their national philanthropy events Journey of Hope and Build America, where the men will give up their summers to bring awareness and support to those living with disabilities.