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Gainesville student lends a hand to enhance life for disabled children everywhere

POSTED: March 29, 2011 1:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

North Georgia College & State University student Zack Agerton will be travelling the country this summer with Build America to improve amenities at 6 camp sites to improve the site’s access for disabled kids.

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Although he’s a junior in college, Gainesville native Zack Agerton still smiles when he thinks back to his days as a kid away at summer camp.

"At first, when my parents would drop me off, I’d be crying for them not to leave me; but by the end of camp, I’d be crying that I didn’t want to leave," said Agerton, a North Georgia College & State University student.

"Camp was so much fun, I think that’s something that every child should get to experience."

So when he learned that some children with disabilities were unable to attend summer camp because of their physical limitations, Agerton knew that he had to get involved to reverse that trend. He decided to start with Push America.

The nonprofit was started in 1977 by Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, of which Agerton is a member. The goal of the organization is to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Agerton is currently raising money to assist with the work that he’ll be doing as a Build America team member. Build America is one of Push’s construction programs where team members travel the country during the summer making camps more accessible for people with disabilities.

Some of the projects the Build team members have completed in the past include constructing and renovating nature trails, fishing piers and playgrounds.

"My personal goal is to raise $5,000. All of that money goes straight into the Build America fund and helps pay for the different projects that we’ll be working on," Agerton said.

"We’re going to be going to six different camps this summer. I leave in June and will return at the end of August."

The combined Build America fundraising goal for this summer is $90,000. So far, the group has raised around $31,000. Agerton has raised around $2,700 of his $5,000 personal goal.

"We want to make sure that all campers are able to have that full camp experience — hiking, fishing, swimming, those sorts of things," Agerton said.

Agerton was inspired to get involved with Push America after hearing a presentation by someone who’d been a part of the organization’s Journey of Hope program, a cross-country cycling event that raises money for organizations aiding people with disabilities.

"I knew right then and there that this was something that I wanted to do," Agerton said.

"It even lead me to change my major to special education."

Although spending six weeks swinging a hammer and lifting lumber may not be the ideal summer vacation for most college students, Agerton says he’s looking forward to the experience.

"I enjoyed going to summer camp as a kid, that experience shouldn’t be taken away from campers with disabilities. They should get to experience it just like every other kid," Agerton said.

"I’m doing this to help people with disabilities, but I know this will affect me as well. This is the type of thing that has a profound affect on your life. It’s the type of thing that helps you become a better person."



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