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Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
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Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

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Gallant Colleen 2018 for web

The Unmasking Autism gala was held April 22, and what an incredible event it was. A special thank you goes to Dan and Casey Masi and their 21 volunteers who did such an amazing job of bringing the local medical community along with Elks from around the entire state together to raise funds for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. Our keynote speaker, Erin Lozott, program director for the Els for Autism Foundation, was absolutely amazing. Ten of our therapists were able to attend and they loved the way our program and all the good they do for our patients was highlighted. I don’t know how it is possible, but each year this event gets better.

Once the gala was over, it was time to plan for the state convention. As we have for the past six years at the state convention, we introduced our CHAMP — Child Having Achieved Magnificent Progress. Joshua Garcia along with his parents, Nidsa and Jason, were our guests for the Friday night awards banquet and the major projects luncheon Saturday. Our Elks always enjoy meeting our new CHAMP and visiting with them. Joshua’s physical therapist is Tina Morris and what a wonderful presentation Tina made highlighting Joshua and the progress he has made since becoming a part of our amazing program.

PSP Sean Maguire introduced our Ben Brown Physical and Occupational Therapy Scholarship winner, Jessica Boudreau, who spoke to everyone at the major projects luncheon about her goals, including the treatment of children when she graduates.

In May, Val Edmands, OT, regional coordinator in our North region, retired. We wish Val and her husband, John, a wonderful retirement.

On July 5, our new therapist, Ashley Robinett, started with FECTS. Ashely is a physical therapist and will be in the North and North Central districts. She attended her first event July 15 at Gainesville Lodge’s Splash Day. Ashley comes to us from Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was a pediatric physical therapist. Ashley was raised in Orange Park, Florida, and moved to Orlando, Florida, to attend UCF for her undergraduate degree and then attended the University of St. Augustine to obtain her DPT. Her passion for treating children makes her a perfect fit for us at FECTS!

We attended the national convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and what a great convention it was. We were able to set up the major projects booth Friday and welcome members from all over the country over the weekend. A special thank you goes to Laz Suarez who designed everything in our booth and to Dan and Casey Masi who drove the trailer to Minneapolis. Along the way, they stopped in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and purchased three bottles of Jack Daniels engraved with the Elks logo and the American flag. That stop enabled us to sell chances on the bottles and a cooler, which raised $6,000 for the Harry-Anna Trust Fund. I am so grateful to Dan Masi; Snuffy Smith, Harry-Anna Trust Fund State Chair; and his wife, Amy, for all their hard work in selling tickets for the raffle. Jane Russo, PT from the North Central, East Central and Central districts joined us at the convention, working hard at our major projects booth letting everyone know about the wonderful work we do in Florida. When you have a booth like ours for an event like the national convention, it takes a lot of volunteers to make it run smoothly, and once again, Florida stepped up with so many volunteers. When our members walked by and we were busy, they stepped right in and started helping. We also had our first fur baby volunteer. Bear Smith, Snuffy and Amy’s baby, brought plenty of attention to our booth. I am so proud to be a Florida Elk! Thank you, all, for your incredible support of our major projects! Once again, Florida’s major projects booth was a five-star winner!

Our therapists continue to be incredibly active in their communities as well as at lodge events. Althea Montgomery, Nikki McAnary and Beth Theirs, all occupational therapists, attended the UCF World Autism Day. Nikki also represented FECTS in the Eagle Creek Elementary School Autism Acceptance Walk. Donna Revera, OT and Chrissy Nathan, OT attended the Jupiter Elks annual community summer barbecue. Also in attendance at Jupiter Lodge were local officers and first responders, featuring an American flag ceremony. The annual Family Café was held in Orlando, Florida, bringing together thousands of people with disabilities and their family members for several days of education, training and networking. This event was attended by our therapists Yvette Lambert, PT; Jane Russo, PT; Althea Montgomery, OT; and Beth Thiers, OT. Our therapists report that this is an amazing event reuniting our therapists with some of their patients and it has resulted in several new applications for services being received in our office.

Finally, while at the national convention, it gave us all an opportunity to see what Elks do around the country. While each state has their own major project, and everyone is proud of what they do, Florida stands as one of the leaders in Elkdom with two amazing major projects — Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and the Florida Elks Youth Camp. It is a result of your hard work that Nick Miller, Youth Camp Director; all the employees of FECTS and FEYC; and I are able to work with so many children in the state. So, with all my heart, I thank you for your support of our major projects and wish you all an incredible year.

Colleen Gallant

Florida Elks Children's Therapy Services