Reflecting on my Ability Weekend experience

The weekend my brothers and I spent at Camp Twin Lakes in Winder, Georgia was truly a life-changing experience. We were joined by Pi Kapps from Auburn, Georgia Tech, and UNC Charlotte. We quickly got to know one another, which made completing our camp projects a more enjoyable undertaking. The campers at Twin Lakes this particular weekend were from Camp BIAG, which is a camp for adults living with severe brain injuries.

Throughout the weekend, we were able to get to know the campers and help Camp Twin Lakes give them a memorable camp experience. Early Saturday morning we began what would be a very long, very rewarding day of work. The majority of us headed out to the camp’s new Equestrian Center to help build three covered sheds, which would allow the horses to get some shade and cool off during the hot summer months. We worked as a team and quickly got all three shed roofs built despite having only known one another for about a day. This Equestrian Center is one of Camp Twin Lakes’ proudest features that is offered to campers, so we were happy to contribute to its improvement.

Those of us that stayed at the main area of the camp spent most of the day helping out with the zipline and giant swing, all while interacting with the campers. I was able to spend some time at this area of the camp as well, which was really awesome. The campers from BIAG really seemed to love heights. During lunch and dinner, all of us Pi Kapps were able to unwind and spend some quality time getting to know the campers, hearing their stories, and doing a whole lot of laughing. These campers were all truly unique individuals. If they weren’t making me smile or laugh hysterically, they were teaching me much about their world and about mine. I recall a camper who had suffered a car accident several years ago saying to me, “You know what I’ve learned, Peyton? Life is all about making adjustments. That’s all it is. If you can do that, you can do pretty much anything.” This exchange, along with a number of others, really stuck with me. The campers taught me a lot in the span of just two days.

Saturday night we attended the closing ceremonies followed by a big dance party with the campers in the gym. I think most of my fellow Pi Kapps would agree that the dance the highlight of the whole weekend. I think I did more dancing and laughing there than I did at my high school Prom. Sunday we did a couple of other, less time intensive camp projects like landscaping and building a wheel chair ramp to help campers with disabilities get from the land out onto the canoes. Around noon we said our goodbyes and hit the road.

As for my fundraising efforts, I just wanted to contribute as much as I possibly could. Thankfully, through God’s grace and the support of my friends and family, I was able to raise over $500 in the span of about three weeks leading up to the Ability Weekend. My family has been such a strong support system throughout my time at UAB, and today they are huge supporters of Pi Kappa Phi. This fraternity has meant more to me than anything else I have experienced in college. The Epsilon Phi Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi is my family, and they have shaped me into who I am today. I owe everything I am to my brothers and those that have led me in the right direction since I started this journey in 2012.

As a senior fast approaching graduation, I know that my days in Pi Kappa Phi are very limited, and I’m so happy that I was able to participate in an official Ability Experience event before graduating. One of the biggest selling points for me when I was going through Rush in 2012 was The Ability Experience. Again, I’m just happy to have helped out in some capacity through donations and my participation at Camp Twin Lakes.

If I have any advice to Pi Kapp undergrads, it would be to fully immerse yourself in Pi Kappa Phi for the whole of your time in college. I was able to serve my chapter on executive council twice—once as chaplain, and again as warden. Those leadership experiences were certainly enjoyable and valuable for me, but it’s less about holding positions and more about contributing to the brotherhood of your chapter. Anyone can be a leader. If you fully immerse yourself in Pi Kappa Phi, and do all that you can to make your chapter great, I truly believe that you will form lifelong friendships with the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi. I know it sounds cliche, but I’ve found it to be true. Be smart, have a good time, stay focused, and don’t take this opportunity for granted.