The object was to encourage all the Elks lodges in the district to
take advantage of the mobile unit that will help them provide a
community service in their hometowns.
Matt Stropes and Terry Howell of
the Illinois Elks were on hand to talk about the trailer. Stropes
and Howell are with the Elks Lodge in Pekin, which is where the
trailer is stored between uses.
The trailer is one of five in
operation statewide. It is available to all the Elks lodges, free of
charge. In order to use the trailer, local lodges have to provide
local volunteers to man it, and they need to pick it up and return
it to its home in Pekin.
Stropes and Howell walked through
what is in the trailer. The trailer opens up, and an array of
pamphlets and literature are available for handout to kids and
adults. Stropes pointed out that in the literature are guides for
parents, such as the 10 ways to tell if a child may be under the
influence of drugs or alcohol.
There is also a walk-through
portion where kids and adults can see three-dimensional displays of
the damage done to internal organs as a result of such abuses.
Howell explained that for the kids,
a wide variety of products are available, from coloring books to
posters, rulers, bookmarks, comic books and more.
He said individual lodges choose
what they want to have in the trailer and order it in advance. They
can then stock the trailer with their items, and when the event they
are attending is done, they can keep the leftovers to use at other
times, or he said some groups leave the leftovers in the trailer for
the next lodge to use.
On a local level, Floyd and Chris
Schmidt of the Lincoln lodge were on hand, talking about what the
local Elks do and what they hope to do in the future.
They explained that currently the
Elks contribute financially to the local D.A.R.E. program and
participate in the annual Christmas parade, handing out coloring
books and fliers.
The Schmidts said that the Lincoln
Elks are interested in expanding what they do and will be looking to
partner more with organizations such as D.A.R.E. They also talked
about using the trailer in the future at local festivals, health
fairs and other healthy activities.
A fun feature of the trailer is
Elroy the Elk. Elroy is a larger-than-life mascot for the Elks.
Chris Schmidt was happy to don the large elk head and show him off.
Howell said that Elroy is popular with the kids, helps draw them
into the trailer and opens the door for communicating with them
about drugs and alcohol.
In addition, the trailer is
equipped with a show-and-tell-type game kids can play. It involves a
basketball hoop and a pair of special goggles. Kids put on the
goggles, which are designed to blur the vision and simulate what the
world looks like when they are under the influence. They are then
asked to shoot hoops. The men explained that with the goggles on, it
is pretty difficult for the kids to make the shot and even keep
their balance while trying.
[to top of second
While the activity is fun, it is also
a teaching activity that helps kids understand what they are doing
to themselves when they abuse drugs or alcohol.
In the Elks organization there are
levels, the highest being the federal or national level, and then
the state level, districts and local lodges. The trailer belongs to
the Illinois Elks Association and is funded by grants from the
Nationwide, the Elks Lodge works
with veterans and carries a motto that as long as there is a
veteran, he will not be forgotten. Stropes said that when they began
the project they labeled it: As long as there is a veteran in the
hospital, he will not be forgotten. However, over the years, they
have come to realize that the needs of veterans on a daily basis are
great, so they do what they can to address all the needs of local
In its youth programs, in addition
to the drug awareness trailer, the Elks organization offers
scholarships and assistance programs for special-needs children.
Stropes explained that there are
special scholarships for students studying in the fields of physical
therapy, occupational therapy and speech.
Also, the Elks work with the
organization's Children's Care Corp. to provide special equipment
for disabled children.
Howell explained that the
corporation might notify them that they have a child in a wheelchair
and the family can't afford to install a chair lift in their van. He
said the Elks can help get that done for the family.
Strope also remembered it wasn't
too long ago that the Children's Care Corp. notified them that there
was a child who needed a special computer because he was
vision-impaired. He said the Elks helped to provide that computer to
The Schmidts said the local Elks
will meet this week, and they hope to discuss the lodge's expansion
of community involvement and the use of the drug awareness trailer.
With the support of the lodge as a whole, they hope the community
will soon be introduced to the trailer, and of course Elroy the Elk
will be there too.
[By NILA SMITH]