Fraternities tend to have a bad rap – and often for good reason. I personally never joined one when I was in college because the hazing never really interested me. Not all fraternities are created equal, however, and some guys at Pi Kappa Phi gave me a whole new outlook on the potential of these organizations. As part of the fraternity’s philanthropy wing, The Ability Experience, a group of young men from all around the U.S. is spending six weeks this summer traveling the country and doing something incredibly good with their time.

The program they are part of is called Build America – a six-week team event traveling the country promoting accessible recreation for people with disabilities. Along the way, these kids build accessible amenities at camps, and other things like wheelchair ramps, horse sheds – whatever is needed. And most of them have never touched a tool before.

My friend and colleague Rob Robillard, of A Concord Carpenter, along with his crew at ToolBox Buzz have been involved with this program now for years training these young men before they embark on their summer-long journey. Rob asked me at a media event last fall if I’d be interested in joining them for this year’s training event, and of course I said yes. The training took place June 30 and July 1 in Concord, Mass. Milwaukee Tools sponsored the event by donating cordless tools, bits, blades – everything needed to tackle the jobs at hand. Over the last several years, Milwaukee has donated more than $15,000 worth of tools and products to support the Build America program.

Rob and former Pi Kappa Phi member-turned-carpenter Phil Benevides created a two-day long intensive that started with tool safety and covered everything from understanding how and when to use the Pythagorean Theorem to circular saw basics to building a shed. These young men spent two long 12-hour days listening to a bunch of carpenters (some with heavy Boston accents, of course) bark orders at them about tool safety and how to swing a hammer – with attention and hustle that would make some grown men I know embarrassed by their own work ethic.

The program requires its participants to raise $4,000 each in order to attend the six-week event, so these guys have to really want to be there. None of them had met each other before they arrived in Concord as they’re from colleges all across the country. I’m grateful to these young men for their commitment to giving back, and to Rob and his crew for being such outstanding role models for them (and me) to live and work by.

Check out the video at past Build America events here, and Rob’s recap of it here. You can also see more about the event and learn more about what we did here.