NATCHITOCHES – A member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity will return to Northwestern State University this fall with an experience unlike most of his peers. While some students spent their summer break earning spending money or taking an exotic vacation, Tyler Vienne of Natchitoches used his summer to learn new skills, see the country, grow as an individual and leave a lasting impact for people with disabilities.
The sophomore health and exercise science major was selected to join Build America, a six-week team event traveling the country promoting accessible recreation for people with disabilities. From the construction of accessible amenities at camps to wilderness adventures with athletes with disabilities, the Build America team is dedicated to proving true human ability.
At the core of Build America is the construction of accessible environments and camps serving the disability community.
From June 6 to July 28, the team built accessible fishing piers, nature trails, climbing walls and many other amenities providing opportunities for campers to experience everything summer camp has to offer. Throughout the summer, the team logged over 4,000 man hours, saved camps and communities $50,000 in labor costs, over $30,000 in materials expenses and impacted the lives of thousands of people with disabilities.
Build America is a project of The Ability Experience, the philanthropic initiative of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. Through national and local projects, the non-profit strives to instill a passion for lifelong service in fraternity members while helping to empower people living with disabilities.
The 2018 team was comprised of 19 men from Pi Kappa Phi chapters across the country.
Weekdays were spent building accessible amenities at camps, while evenings provided an opportunity for bonding with the team and the residents who benefit from their work. Vienne and his teammates completed projects at Camp Woodlands in Wexford, Pennsylvania; Holy Angels/Camp Hope in Belmont, North Carolina; Camp CAMP in Center Point, Texas; Camp Allyn in Batavia, Ohio; Camp Big Sky in Fairview, Illinois, and Camp Sunnyside in Des Moines, Iowa.
One of Vienne’s favorite stops was Camp Woodlands.
“We completed three projects: completely repainting and landscaping their gateway building, constructing a storage shed and building a stage for the camp’s talent show,” he said.
Weekends provided travel time between camps and an opportunity to explore some of American’s unique cities, including Boston, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago.
Vienne said the best experiences on this journey were the evenings when team members gathered with campers for dinner and other camp activities.
“I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into this summer, but this camp showed me it’s one that I will always remember.”
He said the experience created special memories and lifelong friends.
“I had the pleasure of seeing so much of the country and meeting some of the best people I’ve ever met. I’m extremely thankful to have had this opportunity with so much support from friends and family.”
Vienne raised more than $4,000 to participate.
To learn more about the Ability Experience or Build America, visit http://abilityexperience.org/