Thursday, October 20, 2016

#Wybroming

by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly 
I have been fortunate enough to experience many different not-for-profit organizations, both as a volunteer and as a staff member. In my opinion, nonprofit work is the most rewarding thing that I can do both personally and professionally. Working a hard day and then working a hard day’s night can leave you feeling like a dog, but when you are invested, and you care about what you are working for, it’s different.
I am not going to pretend that doing nonprofit work magically makes everything okay. After a long day your feet are still going to hurt, your back is still going to ache, you’re still going to be hungry and tired, but it’s different. It’s worth it. And you know that it’s worth it. There are plenty of idioms that can sum up this sensation such as “You get out of it what you put into it” or “You reap what you sow”, and each one is more true than the last. Don’t believe me? Let me explain what it is like in Casper, #Wybroming.
With my #Wybroming travel companion

Elks family is more than just a hashtag. It is what connects hundreds of thousands of people across the country to each other. I am confident that I could enter an Elks Lodge anywhere I go and be welcomed as a friend. Within the Elks family, there is a Hoop Shoot family as well, and Casper, Wya., Lodge No. 1353 has always been an important part of that family. Long-time Hoop Shoot National Finals volunteers Ron and Nancy Shogren are members of the Casper Lodge. Long-time Wyoming State Director Frank Luers is a member of Casper Lodge, as well as Beth Luers, long-time District Director. Wes Stull, the long-time Lodge Director for Casper, credits the Hoop Shoot as the reason that he joined the Elks. Also in attendance at this event, was Region 8 Director Randy Gragg and his lovely wife Liz. This meant that every level of the Hoop Shoot, from Lodge to National, was represented.

I first met Wes and his wife JoAnn at my first National Finals—the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago. There was not a single Finalist from Wyoming, but that did not stop Casper’s whole Hoop Shoot family—Ron, Nancy, Frank, Beth, Wes and JoAnn—from attending. 


Because Lodge No. 1353 has such a great relationship with the Hoop Shoot, we were invited to attend an Elks National Foundation Fundraiser at the Lodge, kicking off ENF month. The scheduling worked in our favor, and before I knew it, Elks National Foundation Director Jim O’Kelley and I were on the plane to Casper, tweeting about #Wybroming all the while. I wish I could talk about the wonderful hospitality that we received—about how the pilot welcomed the ENF staff over the intercom upon landing, about the welcome gala waiting for us at the airport, about two days of never having an empty glass or plate, and about the private tours of both the Lodge and the City of Casper, both well-deserved points of pride. But that is not what I took away from this trip. That’s not to say that I did not enjoy all the hospitality, because I most certainly did, but I took from the weekend than souvenirs and a full stomach.

Casper is one of the best Lodges I’ve ever been to, and it’s easy to see why. Lodge members work hard to make it that way. Casper has a plethora of committed volunteers that put a lot of time and effort into the Lodge, making it a fun place to be for both members of the Lodge and members of the community. Wes Stull, who helped organize our trip, was responsible for cooking 126 racks of ribs in one day. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of friends and volunteers like Dan Winer, Tom Hedges and Exalted Ruler Michael Stedillie who spent their entire weekend volunteering at the Lodge. They were up with the sun and worked well into the night. The thing about it, though, is that they had fun while doing it. They enjoyed it. Every person at the Lodge on Saturday and Sunday had a great time, myself included. There was laughter and conversation among friends. But the Casper Lodge volunteers seemed to be having even more fun working than the people they were working for. Wes and the other volunteers were cracking jokes while proudly showing the fruits of their labor. It seems only fitting that they put in the most, and thus, they were able to get the most out of it. It was a wonderful sight to see, and it all tasted good too.


This mentality and work ethic, that is found in spades around the Casper Lodge, is what I took with me back to Chicago. It inspired me to put forth the extra effort, go the extra mile, not just professionally, but personally, as a member of my Lodge as well. I can’t thank the members of the Casper Lodge enough for the weekend spent in #Wybroming. Not just for the hospitality, but for the inspiration and the reminder of what can be accomplished if you are willing to put in the work.


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