By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Members of the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity have seen firsthand the positive impact a summer camp can have on children battling muscular dystrophy.
Each year, the fraternity partners with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), which hosts a weeklong camp for kids with muscular dystrophy and related diseases at Calvin Crest near Fremont. The event gives campers an opportunity to forget about their disability for a few days and instead focus on fun activities and developing friendships.
“When they go to this camp, they’re all the same,” said Corey Johnson, a UNK senior from Kearney.
Johnson and three other current Sigma Phi Epsilon members have served as volunteer counselors at the camp, which helps the youths develop confidence, independence and life skills.
It’s a beneficial experience for everyone involved.
“Every day they wake up with a smile on their face,” said Johnson, a camp ambassador and cabin leader who has volunteered the past two years. “That’s what keeps me coming back. These kids have such big hearts. It’s amazing.”
The camp, offered at no cost to families, is the best week of the year for many of the youths fighting an incurable disease. But it wouldn’t be possible without donor contributions.
That’s why the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity hosts an annual fundraiser to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association and its Nebraska summer camp.
This year’s MDA Skate and Walk event is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 27) at the Viaero Center, 609 Platte Road, in Kearney. It includes ice skating, as well as a community walk with families impacted by muscular dystrophy, prize raffles and games in the arena concourse. There will also be information about Sigma Phi Epsilon, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and other event sponsors.
Tickets, which cost $5 each, can be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting https://unk.crowdchange.co/9140. Donations can also be made through the CrowdChange site.
All proceeds benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association and its Nebraska summer camp.
“We want to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to go to camp and have the time of their life for a week,” said Sigma Phi Epsilon member Agustin Ruvalcaba, a senior from Shelby.
The UNK fraternity has already raised more than $4,000 through this year’s effort.
Members also hope to increase awareness for muscular dystrophy, a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and muscle loss, and inspire others to volunteer at the summer camp.
Ruvalcaba, who has volunteered at the camp the past two years, said the experience changed his perspective on life, especially after his uncle was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, it gives me hope for my uncle,” he said.