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Fraternity brothers help camp for people with disabilities

A camper and a fraternity brother shake hands Sunday afternoon at Albrecht Acres A camper and a fraternity brother shake hands Sunday afternoon at Albrecht Acres

An eastern Iowa camp for people with disabilities is getting some help this week from a traveling group of college fraternity brothers.

Camp Albrecht Acres near Sherrill in Dubuque County welcomed the volunteers Sunday, which is the same day this week's campers arrived.

It was smiles all around, as campers reunited for a week of fun.

Jamie Flowers comes to camp at Albrecht Acres every summer - a fact made clear by the number of hugs she handed out.

"I'm a hugger. Don't forget that," she told one fraternity brother as she hugged him hello.

For these 79 kids and adults with disabilities camping this week, Albrecht Acres provides a supporting environment to explore the great outdoors, assistant camp director Evans Bradley said.

"When you think of summer camp, you think of kids and adults who are running, jumping, playing," he said. "When you come to this camp, we still want them to do the same things, but they have limited capacity, and we also want them to enjoy the experience of what camp is all about."

It's part of that mission that brought 16 college fraternity brothers to the camp. They're with Build America, a program through Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that gathers members from college chapters throughout the US and sends them to volunteer at summer camps for people with disabilities: one camp a week for six weeks.

Axel Holm is a student at Iowa State University and Build America's project manager this summer.

"We're here, we're happy to be here and we're ready to do whatever they want us to, as far as building is concerned or hanging with the campers, helping to feed them or maybe if they need help transferring from wheelchair to wheelchair," he said.

The fraternity brothers will help construct an A-frame building to expand the camp's nature center and its programming there.

"We're building a new building at our nature center and we're adding windows and doors and also a steel roof," Bradley said.

The students will also spend time with campers.

"It's very humbling to be able to meet people like that, who just always have smile on their faces and to be able to think, like, 'Why am I so upset about the little things when they have so much adversity in front of them and they're still smiling about it?'" Holm said.

Campers range in age from 10 to 60s and come from group and private homes all throughout Iowa and the tri-state area.

Camp Albrecht Acres applied for and received a $5,000 grant through the Pi Kappa Phi organization. The 16 college men came along with that award.

"There's so much people learn, just about being a good human overall," Holm said, about working with people with disabilities. "I feel like you come out of this a better person in so many different ways."

While other college students are spending their summer in paid internships, these students get a different kind of reward.

This is Pi Kappa Phi fraternity's 35th year of Push America, which coordinates three summer programs, including Build America, that each help people with disabilities.

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