What we do Matters!

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A recent life experience coinciding with our winter 2020 Elks convention in SeaTac Washington, by Elks member Ben Braden:

Sikuliaq from the pier.

Stepping aboard the 261’ National Science Foundation Icebreaker Sikuliaq I can’t help but imagine the rugged territory it’s sailed near, the waves it’s surmounted and the feet of ice it’s broken through on its journeys.  This night I’m invited by friends in my sailing community to listen to a presentation about a recent science trip and tour the vessel.  They’ve been aboard helping promote and share the boats science activities this past month or more and are as excited to be back in Seattle as they are to share their vessel and experiences.

I arrived a touch late as I was coming from our 2020 Washington State Elks Association winter convention and couldn’t get away until about 5pm for the drive across Seattle to the University of Washington pier on the ship canal and stepped aboard in my full state Elks uniform.  Green jacket with pins, white shirt, state green tie, black pants/sox/shoes.  Definitely standing out in my Elkdom aboard the working vessel.

Professor Jim was already well into his presentation on their scientific endeavors of this past month.  They spent a good amount of time studying wave height changes in the areas above the Bering Sea and how the disappearing shore ice and receding sea ice have changed wave heights with the increased fetch and how these waves are eroding away the shoreline, in some cases at more than 10 meters per year as the water thaws the permafrost.  They had also spent time studying the gases released with these now breaking waves in the hopes of understanding what is released and how it may effect things.

One of the four generators below deck

Imagine chasing waves, big waves, in a vessel designed to break ice (it has no keel) in order to collect gasses in that big breaking wave.  Yeah, the boat has a compressed air water ballast system to help it stay on keel but I can just imagine the fun of rolling around in that thing going over some 50+ foot waves.

We had an amazing tour of the young vessel that’s run by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  We were lucky enough to be paired for the tour with the ships 1st mate, who has been with the ship since commissioning in 2015.  He knew everything about the boat that could be known and shared it all with us, good and bad.  What an amazing opportunity we had to learn from the 1st mate.  We ended up there late and decided to join the crew for dinner at a local restaurant – so glad we did!

Not only were these Sikuliaq people the characters you would imagine but our friends that worked on the boat shared how they got the job a year after meeting Professor Jim, the man making the presentation that night, in “the” coffee shop in Nome, Alaska.  Stuck there for 3 weeks due to weather they were starved for conversation and when this professor walked in they crowded him for stories and interaction as you can imagine.  Ending this coffee shop soiree with an exchange of cards, little did they know, a year later, they would answer a phone call about a job in Arctic.

View aft from the bridge deck.

Our friends then looked at my wife and me and asked, do you two still volunteer with Outdoors for All?  Too which we responded yes.  “Professor Jim has a son that went through the Outdoors for All program,” they said.  “He took classes up at Stevens Pass.”  Bam, the light went on in our heads – Jim is Graham’s dad, we know his kid Graham from years prior and now we know why Professor Jim looked so familiar to us – we’d met him as well!

So what does all this have to do with the Elks you’re asking yourselves about now.  Great story Ben, but how does this have anything do with the Elks besides you wearing your state Elks outfit on a boat?  Well here it is;


Jim and Graham, photo by John Lowe

I’m at my first Washington State Elks Association Winter convention 5’ish years ago, and as you’ll remember from your own experiences at your first convention, I’m wandering around trying to figure things out and make it to a few presentations to learn more about what I’ve become involved with.  I sit down to a Therapy Program presentation there in the Grand Ballroom at the Double Tree Hotel, same place it is today, and I look up and wouldn’t you know it, there is Graham on stage.  I’m thinking to myself, holy crap, I know that kid!  The Elks Therapy Program for Children had helped Graham with some of his ability issues as a youngster and by them doing that, it enabled Graham to enroll in Outdoors for All and learn how to ski on the adaptive equipment there!  How cool is that?

Right then the connection was made, the circle closed for me about what we are doing as Elks. It matters.  It mattered to me right then as it became obvious that we help real people succeed, people I know.  Without the help from our Therapy Program the volunteers at Outdoors for All may never of had the opportunity to help Graham learn how to ski.  Our State program made this happen and it’s our state Elks, all those members before me that paid into this system over the years that made it a viable program, a real thing that matters.  Thank you all for that.

So there I am, leaving dinner on the Ship Canal in Seattle thinking to myself – Wow – the stuff we do as Elks actually matters.  It doesn’t just help kids get the therapy they need, therapy that they are not receiving in our medical system.  It’s enabling, it is setting them up with the abilities they need to succeed in life while at the same time setting up, in this case, the parent with a situation so they can get out and do such important work knowing their kid has the abilities they need to succeed.

The circle I thought was closed between Outdoors for All and the Washington State Elks Association Therapy Program for Children just exploded.  Maybe it’s just a circle within a bigger circle, the old Russian Egg.  It’s just an empty shell if nothing is inside, but with all the inner eggs building up to the exterior shell it’s an amazing creation of different complete shells making up the whole into an amazing thing.

In synopsis – friends get a job over a year after a random encounter in a coffee shop in Nome, AK.  They invite Jennifer and me to tour the ship they were on and we receive a presentation by the dad of a kid we knew from volunteering at Outdoors for All Stevens Pass, a kid our beloved Therapy Program for Children served as a youngster.  A program my Grandfather and father supported in their time and one I continue to pay into today because, get this, I’ve learned it matters.  It truly does.


Background Information:

The Vessel;

The R/V Sikuliaq, pronounced [see-KOO-lee-auk], is a 261-foot oceanographic research ship capable of bringing scientists to the ice-choked waters of Alaska and the Polar Regions. Sikuliaq, one of the most advanced university research vessels in the world, is able to break ice up to 2.5 feet thick. Constructed at Marinette Marine Corporation, a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, Sikuliaq is home ported in Seward, Alaska, at UAF’s Seward Marine Center.

The vessel is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, as part of the U.S. academic research fleet. It is used by scientists in the U.S. and international oceanographic community through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. UAF’s Sikuliaq Ship Committee provides scientific oversight of Sikuliaq.

Learn more at https://www.sikuliaq.alaska.edu/


Outdoors For All

The Outdoors for All Foundation transforms lives through outdoor recreation.  Founded in 1979 in the Pacific Northwest, Outdoors for All is a national leader in delivering adaptive and therapeutic recreation for children and adults with disabilities. Each year more than 2,900 individuals exercise their abilities thanks to the training and support of more than 800 volunteers. Outdoors for All enriches the lives of individuals with disabilities and families and helps them to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Outdoors for All’s programs includes snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing, cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, youth and adult day camps, yoga, military programs, weekend excursions and custom events.

Learn more at https://outdoorsforall.org/


Therapy Program for Children

From a single therapist covering Washington State over 65 years ago, the Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children has evolved into an integral, vital, and much-appreciated part of the statewide healthcare community. It provides home-based occupational or physical therapy to eligible children with developmental delays or physical disabilities. Services are provided at no cost to the family served.

Today, Supervisory Therapist Becky Gibson supervises up to fifteen Occupational and Physical Therapists. Becky is an Occupational Therapist and has been with the Elks Therapy Program for fourteen years. She is at the heart of our program and has an incredible heart regarding the welfare of “Our Kids.” In addition to her supervisory duties, she sees seven or eight clients. Her rapport with the kids, the parents and the staff is incredible.

The present caseload for the Washington Elk therapists averages 25 children per unit. Each unit consists of a licensed therapist, transportation, and equipment. These therapy units are located all across the state of Washington.

Administrative costs for the Program remain very low, thus 86% of each contribution goes directly to its purpose—therapy for children. By providing critical one-on-one pediatric therapy for children most in need, the Washington Elks continue their long tradition of service to our community.

Learn More at https://waelks.org/what-we-do/therapy


Ben Braden is an Honorary Life Member and Past Exalted Ruler of the Ballard Lodge #827.  He is active in his lodge Past Exalted Ruler Association and with the Washington State Elks Association as an Online Presence Coordinator and Advertising Co-Pay Coordinator, giving regular presentations on both our state conventions.  Ben is also involved in his district as part of the North District Deputy team, serving as Assistant Auditor for two years and becoming Esquire to the District Deputy in Baltimore.  Ben is passionate in his sailing community in Ballard have grown up on the beach and learned to sail at a young age its more of a lifestyle than a sport and as such makes his living selling recreational boats with Sail Northwest located in Shilshole Marina’s office space.

You can read more of Ben’s blogging here on his free wordpress site – ballardsailor@wordpress.com

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