Written by Brother Kevan McBeth - Executive Director - Elks of Canada
As many of you know, one of the things that we are absolutely committed to doing this year at Grand Lodge through our strategic plan is to start to bring back the level of pride that we all should have in our Order. You've heard me talk here and in presentations at Convention about the need for us to Lead with Awesome - sharing some of the amazing things that we do as Elks each and every day because it's just what we do as Elks. It's who we are. In my opinion, we aren't celebrating our amazing work enough, so we are going to change all that by doing a better job of sharing our stories, just like this one.
Since June, I have been wearing two hats at the office - I have been doing my usual work as your National Executive Director, but I have also been filling the void that our amazing Charities Coordinator Agnes Fuchs left when she retired just before the beginning of July. I decided not to fill the role right away so that I could learn a bit more about the Elks and Royal Purple Fund For Children, and its inner workings when it comes to the relationships that exist with programs, as well as better understand the Personal Assistance program. I can tell you that I have gained a true appreciation of the role that Agnes filled brilliantly for the last 18 years, but I have also come to better understand why the Fund for Children is so special and important to our organization.
Nothing demonstrates this more than opening up a piece of mail addressed to the Fund for Children from a parent or a child who has been a recipient of the amazing generosity of our members and seeing and reading about the impact that you have had on a complete stranger who was in need of help. And no letter better demonstrates that impact more than the one we received from Caitlin Brockman, who wrote a letter recently to the Nanaimo Elks.
I reached out to Caitlin and asked if she would allow me to share her letter with you all, and not only did she agree, but she also sent me some great pictures and we have connected on social media so we can stay in touch.
This is her letter:
To the Nanaimo Elks,
I have a tendency to look at myself in the mirror as I place my hearing aids in their respective canals just so I can watch my expression change. As the sounds in my surroundings come to life, I can't help but smile. I grew up acknowledging that although many people could hear without effort, having the means to afford hearing devices made this only a privilege for me. This is why every morning I start my day by silently paying my respects to your association and all the members who have worked so hard to improve my quality of life.
Without the support and funding that you have continuously sponsored me (for the third time now), I do not believe I would have been as resilient as I am today. I would be lying if I said that growing up with a permanent disability hasn't been difficult, but as the years go by I learn that my identity is so much more than that.
Since being diagnosed with a Moderate Bilateral Hearing Loss at the age of four, I have accomplished many things in my life that I am proud of. I have traveled to new places, been an active member of sports and recreation teams, gained incredible exposure to many sources of education and professional work environments, established and maintained many healthy and loving relationships, while also recently graduating from Vancouver Island University's Child and Youth Care Degree Program.
My passion for walking alongside children and youth is only just beginning. You can find me currently pursuing an internship at Albert Children's Hospital where I am in the process of becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist. Between Oncology and Mental Health units, I am learning and expanding my capacity to cater to the emotional needs of a child, youth and their family while they are navigating the stress and anxieties that come with hospitalization. Upon completion of my internship in August of 2017, I will return to Vancouver Island in order to begin working as a Child and Youth Grief Counselor at the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society.
Although I must give myself credit for the hard work and dedication needed to pursue my aspirations, I can't help but admit that the source of my confidence has come from you. There is so much about life that I value: family, friends, shelter, opportunity...It is the sound of laughter, running water, and waving flags, however, that will always remind me of the gift that you have so graciously given me.
When I see the way that my smile evolves in the reflection in the mirror, I think about the many faces behind the sound waves, tones, pitches, and melodies that I am able to hear. I am so privileged to know how this feels, I am so lucky to be healthy, and I am so thankful for the Elks.
Each year, your donations and community fund-raising through Walk-a-thons, Giving Tuesday events and Lodge fundraising initiatives help 80 to 100 people just like Caitlin through the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children Personal Assistance Program.
If there was any doubt about the level of impact that you as Elks have on others through your kindness and generosity, I believe Caitlin may have just erased it.