Swapping sand for saws: Students serve Clemson camp during spring break
CLEMSON — While many college students across the U.S. headed to the beach or home for spring break, one group of fraternity brothers came to Clemson to help a camping program prepare to serve people with disabilities this summer.
Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members from across the nation did construction and landscaping projects March 9-13 at the Clemson Outdoor Lab, a university-owned, lakeside camp and conference center near the campus that provides summer camps for children and adults with disabilities, among other programs.
Students from Truman State University, Mississippi State University, the University of North Texas and Florida State University participated in the Alternative Spring Break project, building walls, prepping a waterslide area, constructing paver pathways, re-staining decks, building a stage and other site improvements.
They served through Push Camps, weeklong national service projects sponsored by Push America, a nonprofit organization founded by Pi Kappa Phi to serve people with disabilities.
The students worked under the director of project managers, including Norman McGee, Outdoor Lab director emeritus. McGee also partnered with Clemson architecture students to create the stage that was installed.
“It was a great opportunity for us to partner with other colleges during this project and help maintain a healthy relationship throughout our campus,” said McGee.
Push Camps have been held at the Outdoor Lab since 1991, making a huge impact on the camping program, said Leslie Conrad, director of the Outdoor Lab. Previous projects include a climbing wall, three campout buildings, a drama area, docks and a waterfront area, accessible porches and ramps, retaining walls, pavilion and amphitheater improvements, a patio and a thunder ball court.
“Our goal is to create an awesome place for campers that is in a safe and accessible environment, and these students are able to accomplish so much that we wouldn’t have the finances or time to invest in,” Conrad said.
“These guys could have gone anywhere for their spring break, but decided to come to Clemson and serve people they will never meet,” she added. “They experienced a wonderful opportunity that focused on the needs of others.”
That sentiment was echoed by the volunteers as well.
“It was a cool experience to see where the money we’ve raised is put into action and to see first-hand the organization it will benefit, “ said Drew Matthews, director of special events at Push America.
About the Outdoor Lab
Operated by Clemson University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, the Clemson Outdoor Lab is a full-service, accredited camp and retreat center located on Lake Hartwell five miles from the Clemson campus. The lab provides accommodations for conferences, meetings, workshops, retreats, weddings, and other events, and hosts residential camps for children, youth and adults, many of which are designed for individuals with disabilities.