Fraternity brothers building their way across the country

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ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — A group of 20 men are are giving up six weeks of their summer and building their way across the country to help kids with disabilities.

This week, the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi from all over the country are in Elgin at Down Home Ranch as a part of The Ability Experience’s Build America, a summer long event traveling the country to build accessible camp structures like nature trails, ramps, and playgrounds.

Down Home Ranch sits on more than 400 acres and allows men, women and children with down syndrome and other disabilities to work and play on the ranch. There is a barn on the property that is in major need of some tender, love and care.

“We’re just renovating it kind of from the top up, yesterday we cleaned everything, got the floors cleaned, cleaning off the walls today, we are going to repaint,” said Jake Foster, a senior at Mercer University.

A pack of brothers, armed with paint rollers and pressure washers is now bringing the old barn to life.

“That’s why I came out here, I’m good working with my hands so I like being able to see us finish a project and see the kids enjoy it,” Foster said.

  • Alicia Inns shows you what the brothers have done in Elgin on KXAN News Today

It’s not your Hollywood frat-guy narrative you may think of during the summer. Rather, this is a tale of dedication, inspiration, and service for the men of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

“In one word, I would probably say ‘life changing’ in the fact that you get to see first hand what hard work and dedication pays off,” said Wayde Charging Hawk, a junior at the University of New Mexico.

While the barn has been recently used just as an extra storage facility — the hope when it’s fixed up is an extra space for barn dances and camp spaces for the kids of the ranch.

It’s not only about the structures they build but the bond they build with each other too.

“The smile on the kids’ faces, the smile on the campers, the ranchers faces with a simple interaction let alone to see your finished product, overall it’s an amazing feeling,” Charging Hawk said.

The Build America team started in Boston. They will visit 18 cities across 10 states and will finish in Washington, D.C. on Aug 12. Every team member commits to raising a minimum of $4,000 on behalf of people with disabilities in hopes to enhance their quality of life. Throughout the summer, the team saves local camps and communities approximately $50,000 in labor costs and $30,000 in material expenses while impacting the lives of thousands with disabilities.

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