July 14, 2009

Push America team to work at Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A group of college students from across the country will be hard at work next week improving Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

For the fifth year, Push America undergraduate student volunteers will spend time improving the camp, located along Little Grassy Lake. Push America, a Pi Kappa Phi non-profit fraternal organization program, emphasizes the abilities of all people and service to others. Build America, a team from Push America, is having Push Camp July 19-24 at Touch of Nature. The center is the site of the country’s first university-affiliated residential camping program for those with disabilities, Camp Little Giant.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover Push America’s charitable contribution of labor at SIUC’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. To arrange a media visit or learn more, contact Alan Teska, program director at Touch of Nature, at 618/453-1121, ext. 262.

A group of 20 students will be on-site. They’re coming from Indiana State University, Arizona State University, Queens University of Charlotte, Missouri State University, University of Massachusetts, Middle Tennessee State University, Elon University in North Carolina, Georgia Institute of Technology, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Bowling Green University, Ohio State University, University of South Carolina Upstate, University of Iowa, Washington State University and Miami University in Ohio.

“Each year the Push America volunteers have constructed projects for Touch of Nature. They give true meaning to the phrase ‘labor of love,’” said Susan C. Edgren, interim director of the Division of Continuing Education. “I would like to express the gratitude of the Touch of Nature staff and all the campers and visitors who are beneficiaries of the Push projects.”

Push America even provides a $5,000 grant to help cover the cost of construction materials. Their crew will work under the direction of the University’s Plant and Service Operations. This year’s plans, weather permitting, include renovating the Stone Lodge by installing new paneling and ceilings and making other improvements. The crew will fix the roof on an outdoor pavilion, repair or replace screens and screen doors on the cabins and make repairs at the camp arts and craft building, too. They also will continue construction of the outdoor amphitheater, according to Michael Keith, deputy director of construction management services for Plant and Service Operations.

But, that’s not all. In previous years, the Push America teams have donated their time and energy during spring break, but this year the Build America team is coming during the summer months and will contribute even more. When they finish their construction projects for the day, they will work alongside the camp’s staff, interacting with and mentoring Camp Little Giant participants, said Vicki Lang-Mendenhall, camp director and therapeutic recreation specialist.

“This year we’re having a Build America group and they’ll be providing positive interaction, strong mentoring and wonderful energy and excitement to enhance the Camp Little Giant experience for participants and staff,” Lang-Mendenhall said.

For more information about Push America, log on to www.pushamerica.org. You can learn more about Touch of Nature Environmental Center at www.ton.siu.edu or by calling 618/453-1121. The camp, about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road, offers a variety of popular and successful educational and therapeutic recreational programs all year long.