Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Elks Scholar Alum of the Year: A Reflection

Kelly Ryan Murphy

Being the Elks Scholar Alum of the Year has been a wonderful experience. I was able to attend the Elks National Convention in New Orleans, meet incredible members of the Elks community, and expand a service project that is near and dear to my heart.

Meeting Mrs. Weigel was my favorite part
of Convention.
Although initially I was hesitant to apply, I am so glad that I ended up doing so. Out of all the many talented Elks scholars, I did not think that I could possibly be considered. But as an Elks scholar and a Gunther & Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship recipient, my connection to Elks had been reaffirmed over the years and I knew I had made the ideals of the Elks National Foundation a part of my daily life. Once I applied, I was completely shocked that I had received the honor. I was also excited that I would finally get a chance to put a face to the names of the many people working behind the scenes of the Elks National Foundation. Most of all, I knew I would be able to meet Lee Weigel, the wife of Gunther Weigel, who were the benefactors of the medical school scholarship that I had received from Elks. Meeting Mrs. Weigel in New Orleans was my favorite part of the whole weekend, for we had exchanged cards and phone calls several times over the prior two years. She was glowing to meet one of the scholars who benefited from her and her husband’s generosity. She recently passed away so I am thankful this opportunity gave me the chance to meet such a genuinely caring woman. It will go down in history as my favorite memory with Elks.
                        
Members of the Elks Scholar
Advisory Board
exploring Convention.
Other than meeting Mrs. Weigel, I met Elks members in the convention hall and of course learned just what it means to become a pin collector. I went from table to table with some of the other Elks Scholar Advisory Board members to both meet the Elks representing their states and to pick up as many pins as possible! Receiving my home state of Arizona’s pin was especially significant, as was meeting members from Sun City, Ariz., Lodge No. 2559, who sponsored my Elks Most Valuable Student scholarship. They were equally excited to meet someone who had never been to an Elks Convention before because it indicated promise in Elks continuing for years into the future. While nobody in my family had ever been an Elk, I felt at home with the community and was proud to be connected in a unique way to the members.
Couldn't leave New Orleans
without some beignets!

We had lots of fun that weekend, including going on an official New Orleans “ghost tour” and eating as many beignets as one stomach can handle. The Board also worked hard to lay the groundwork for keeping scholars connected and promoting continued community involvement. It was a dynamic process of brainstorming and discussion—and possibly some debating—about ways the Board could reach out to the current and future generations of Elks scholars. I saw first-hand how much the ENF cares about their scholars and learned a lot about the functioning of ENF at a ground level.

Playing dress-up at the WWII Museum.
Being at the ENF event for supporters of the Foundation was incredibly special since it was held at the WWII Museum and many of the Elks members in the audience were veterans themselves. Several people received honors and were acknowledged that night, and I was honored to be among them in receiving my award as Alum of the Year. Having to speak in front of the crowd was intimidating because how was I supposed to thank a room of people who had not only supported me through college but also medical school? It was a humbling experience to say the least, and I was so thankful the Foundation
made the night so unique and entertaining.

The Alum of the Year Award included a donation to the nonprofit of my choice. I decided to donate it to an organization that I was involved with at school called Music and Memory. With this gift, we were able to expand the music therapy program for people with dementia living in assisted living centers around Durham, North Carolina. I appreciated that the award went towards a charity of my choice since it meant I could know exactly who it helps and how it benefits those in need.

The WWII Museum was such an
enjoyable setting!
Overall, I am so glad I applied for the Elks Scholar Alum of the Year. It has been an honor to be more involved with the Elks and I am proud to be connected to such an incredible organization. I have no doubt that the ENF will continue to make a difference in the lives of service-oriented students for many years to come. Thank you, Elks National Foundation. I am looking forward to finding out who will serve as the next Alum of the Year! If you are interested in being the next Elks Scholar Alum of the Year, click here to fill out the online application due March 31.

Kelly Ryan Murphy
2009 Most Valuable Student Scholar, Gunther & Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship Recipient, and 2014 Elks Scholar Alum of the Year
Sponsored by Sun City, Ariz., Lodge No. 2559

A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Elks National Foundation helps Elks build stronger communities through programs that support youth, serve veterans, and meet needs in areas where Elks live and work. For 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation allocated $2.74 million to fund the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, which includes 500 four-year Most Valuable Student Scholarships. For more information about the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, including eligibility and deadlines, visit www.elks.org/enf/scholars.

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