Sequim Elks benefit to raise funds for disabled veterans; organizers hopes it catches on across nation

SEQUIM — It’s a big idea in a small town, and Sequim resident Bill Ellis hopes his plan for raising money for disabled veterans catches on across the nation.

Ellis, an 83-year-old Korean War veteran who said he’s not quite retired, is spearheading a Fourth of July event, “Americans Helping Our Disabled Veterans and Their Families.”

The Sequim Elks Lodge is sponsoring and hosting the all-day event at the lodge at 143 Port Williams Road.

Admission will be free. Donations will be solicited.

All donations will go to the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 9, based in Port Angeles, which serves Clallam and Jefferson counties, “with the provision that 100 percent goes to disabled veterans and their families,” Ellis said.

“They will leave the books open to us and give us an accounting,” Ellis said.

Ellis said he’s sent the concept to Elks lodges across the country, hoping to inspire a movement.

The money raised will go to local veterans.

‘Show we care’

“Our disabled veterans need us to show them we really care,” Ellis said.

Although Ellis, who served four combat tours in the Navy and was not wounded, credits the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital staff in Seattle with helping to save his life several times, he feels that many other veterans don’t get the care they need.

“I’m already in the system. I’ve been going for 30 years. . . . These veterans can’t get into the system,” he said.

“Some of them need money desperately,” he added. “They are so disabled they can’t work.”

The commander of DAV Chapter 9, Jeff Bele, agrees that many disabled veterans struggle to get medical care.

The DAV provides van trips to Seattle to connect veterans with medical care when they need to travel to Seattle from the North Olympic Peninsula.

Bele, 47, who was injured in Iraq by an improvised explosive device in 2009, soon will go to Seattle to coordinate van trips for Peninsula veterans.

“I’m very fortunate,” said Bele, an Army corporal whose back was broken, his head wounded, his knees shattered and whose right hand is useless because of crushed tendons.

“I’m a survivor out of four people, so I try to live for them every day.

“I want to make sure that our veterans are taken care of,” he said.

“Just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I can’t help other veterans.”

All DAV workers are volunteers, Bele emphasized.

“Without all the veterans out there volunteering and doing all the help they offer us, we would have nothing for the disabled American veterans,” he said.

To request services from the DAV, call 360-808-4680.

Plans for event

The Fourth of July fundraiser will include entertainment, breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to noon, hot dogs in the afternoon, a flag-raising at 11:45 a.m. and U.S. flags for the first 200 youths to arrive, Ellis said.

He hopes to get donations for an auction and added that he already has received significant donations for the event from several businesses.

The entertainment lineup is:

■ Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Straight Wheelers (square dance).

■ 12:45 p.m. — Sweet Adelines.

■ 1 to 2 p.m. — Buck Ellard (country music).

■ 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Na Hula O Wahine ‘Ilikea Hula (Hawaiian dance).

■ 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. — Round Trip (rock).

■ 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. — Children of the Ravens (tribal dancing).

■ 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. — Martial arts demonstrations,

■ 6:15 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Cat’s Meow (big band).

“I want the American people to grab onto this,” Ellis said, pointing at a banner proclaiming the event’s intentions.

“They’ll see that and feel like they’re a part of it all.”

For more information, contact the Sequim Elks Lodge at 360-683-2763.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette, which is part of the Olympic Peninsula News Group. Other Sound Publishing newspapers in the group are the Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at mdashiell@sequimgazette.com.

PDN Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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