SEQUIM — The success of the inaugural Americans Helping Our Disabled Veterans and Their Families fundraiser at the Sequim Elks Lodge this Fourth of July might lead to similar events being hosted at Elks clubs throughout the country in coming years, said William “Bill” Ellis, the event founder.
He said Friday he has contacted the Elks national headquarters in Chicago, which is requesting further information about the event particulars for potential dissemination to national chapters.
“They want me to get them all the information and instructions on how to do this, and they want to send it out to the Elk’s lodges around the country,” Ellis said.
According to Ellis, $5,496 was raised during the all-day extravaganza of food and music at the Sequim Elks Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road, which hosted and sponsored the event.
The money was given to the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 9, based in Port Angeles, which serves Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Ellis conceived the idea of the fundraiser and bought a banner, but the entertainers all donated their time and skills, Ellis said, with the Elks club providing food and other amenities.
Ellis said there were a few hundred participants this year, and added there would have been more had the weather been better.
“I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “We are going to do it again here [in 2017], and it is going to be a lot bigger — the whole ball of wax.”
Ellis on Friday expressed his gratitude to everyone who volunteered for the event and especially to the Sequim Elks Club.
“Because of what they did, coming out to support this — the first of its kind anywhere in the country — they made it possible for this to go nationwide,” he said.
Ellis also thanked the donors.
“I just want to say that I am so grateful to those people coming out in that bad weather to help out our veterans,” he said.
“It was a wonderful thing and every time I talk about it I start choking up.”
The fundraiser is personal for Ellis, an 83-year-old Korean War veteran who served four combat tours in the Navy aboard the USS Ozbourn (DD-846) and was not wounded.
He said he spearheaded the event because he feels more needs to be done to help disabled veterans and their families.
“The reason why I came up with this idea is because Congress has not supported” veterans, Ellis said.
“Those gutless wonders, they send our young people over[seas] to fight. They don’t go themselves.”
The vets “come back here and they are not taken care of,” Ellis continued.
“They have a hard time even getting into the VA hospitals. I thought that maybe the American people ought to grab onto this.”
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].