Fraternity brothers spend Fridays with special-needs kids

By Michael Clark - Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — It’s a late Friday afternoon, and some Miami University fraternity members are looking for a party. They know just where to go.

They hit up a place that has become their usual fun spot — the Hamilton Schools’ Bridgeport Elementary multiple disabilities class, which on a Friday in December had its students decorating a Christmas tree.

It’s “Fraternity Friday” at the Butler County school, and the dozen Miami Pi Kappa Phi members are greeted with loving hugs and big smiles of recognition and appreciation in the late afternoon as they walk into the school’s cafeteria and stage area.

“This has been such an amazing program for everyone involved and really highlights the character of these tremendous young men,” said Angela Henson, physical therapist for Hamilton Schools.

“The students in the multiple disabilities program look forward to Fraternity Friday each week. It is the highlight of the week for many of our students who benefit from the time spent with positive, caring male role models.

“This began four years ago, as part of their fraternity’s philanthropy outreach program to assist individuals with disabilities within the community.”

The program has drawn local praise and national attention that resulted in a November award of a $2,500 grant from the Pi Kappa Phi Philanthropy for the fraternity to pass on to the Bridgeport special needs student program.

Some feel that the philanthropic works of Miami’s fraternities and sororities — and those throughout America’s other universities — are too rarely publicized, but community service is a foundational aspect of the college Greek system, students said.

Spencer Haworth, regional director of chapter services of “The Ability Experience” for the Pi Kappa Phi national charity, said the Miami University and Hamilton Schools partnership program benefits everyone “by allowing the men of Pi Kappa Phi into your doors, and hearts, you are helping us prepare the next generation of servant leaders, advocates and supporters for the disability community.”

Those lofty aspirations become heart-felt reality when those students bond with the young buddies.

“The fundamental goal of The Ability Experience is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through shared experiences with our members and through fundraising,” said Sean McKeon, a Miami junior and member of Pi Kappa Phi.

“We get to spend time with the kids, and they enrich our lives by filling our lives with joy every Friday when we come here. When we come here, we honestly have fun, and this is great time for us to have fun with a bunch of great kids and to bond as (fraternity) brothers.”

Henson smiled as she watched the young Miami men entertain the kids.

“This is often the highlight of the kids’ day,” she said. “This is so special and you see how the kids run into the room and leap into their arms. The boys are very positive role models, and they are very caring young men.”

By Michael Clark

Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News