Happy 2024! 2023 was an incredible year for Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. We continue to treat more than 600 children each week. This is only possible because we have 30 of the most amazing therapists. At the midyear convention, we received approval to add two more therapists. We have already started our search for them.
As we say hello to 2024 and the 25th anniversary of FECTS, we will say
“happy retirement” to Rae Montgomery, PT, physical therapist from the Northeast District. Rae, who is originally from Chicago, has been with us for 15 years working for FECTS in the Jacksonville area. She is looking forward to enjoying more family time and traveling when she retires.
As you all know, our therapists do wonderful work with the children they treat. These families continue to report that the therapists have so positively impacted not only the patient’s life but the lives of the entire family. Whenever I have an opportunity to meet or speak with patients’ families, they have nothing but good things to say. So, to our therapists, thank you for the work you do with these children, making their world a better place for them and their families.
We have so many stories, so I would like to share a story with you all. Pictured are Nikki McAnary, OTR/L, occupational therapist in the Southeast Central District, and her patient, Jay. Jay is a 3-year-old boy who is being seen for severe sensory issues and speech delay. Jay was not able to participate in a group in the chapel due to noise distractions and overall sensory overload. Nikki went in and worked with him for several weeks using sensory tools, transition techniques and a way to calm himself. She also sat right next to him during his performance to cue him when he started to have breakthrough behavior, wanted to escape, needed a different tool (something to chew on in between songs) or needed help back on the step when he would jump off. Without this, he would not have been able to perform like his friends. He was able to stay and do all the songs and he is so proud of himself, as were his mom, dad and grandparents. It was a momentous day for Jay along with his OT, Nikki! To show how our therapists go above and beyond, earlier in the day, Nikki had rolled her ankle but she waited to get an X-ray until after Jay’s performance since she promised she would be right there with him. Nikki fractured a bone in her foot and is currently in a boot waiting for an MRI.
I would also like to recognize and thank Deborah Hall and Cristin Rumler for the outstanding job they do every day working with our therapists, patient families and FECTS in general. Working with these ladies is indeed a pleasure.
We had a great midyear convention this year. Physical therapist Jane Russo spoke at the major projects meeting and did a great job of sharing the many things she does with her patients. Florida Ladies of Elks presented FECTS with a $3,000 check to use for FECTS families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. What a difference this makes in so many of our patients’ lives.
Each year, the Past State Presidents’ spouses, along with several friends, donate two $25 gift cards for our patients. Also, our friends at the Gainesville Garden Club send us gift cards for our patients. With these gift cards, we were able to distribute 117 gift cards to our families in need. In addition to the gift cards, our therapists can purchase each of their patients a gift for Christmas. Many of our lodges send additional Christmas funds for the purchase of Christmas gifts, and we sincerely appreciate it.
I would like to say a special thank you to the Northwest District Past Exalted Rulers Association. Each year they work with their therapist, Elizabeth Maina, to purchase warm coats for our patients. This is a tremendous help to our families in the cold Northwest District, and we are all grateful for their help.
This past year, we had the most successful Unmasking Autism Gala. Dan Masi, Florida State Elks Association Development Director; Casey Masi and the entire gala committee started our year out with an incredible event. The galas have brought so much attention to Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services and children with autism, not only in the area where the gala is held but throughout the state. Our lodges are already getting excited about our 2024 Unmasking Autism Gala — “We’re On the Move.” Thank you, all, for your hard work and dedication to Therapy Services.
As we close out 2023 and welcome 2024, I would like to say a special thank you to our board of directors — Kevin Clemons, PDD, president; Erika Barger, PDD and Esquire, our legal advisor; Bill Dryburgh, PDD, vice president; Keith Eppes, PDD; Tom Brand, PDD; Andrew Hillhouse; Rose Wujcik, PER; Gordon Ellery Jr., PDD; Marge Spera, PDD; Pat Maher, PDD; Tony Fratello, PDD; Richard Bardsley, PDD; Etta J. “Jeannie” Platt, DVP; Helen Garcia, PDD; and Luis Oms Sr., PDD. We are blessed to have Sean Maguire, PSP as our PSP Advisor. Sean, thank you for your help and guidance as well as always being available when we need you. Along with our therapists, Deborah Hall, and Cristin Rumler, working with each of you makes me so proud to represent our Florida Elks as the Director of Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services.
At FSEA, we have an amazing staff of people who work well together to help Florida Elks shine. This cannot be accomplished without an incredible leader. Thank you, Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary, for all you do for your entire staff.
Happy New Year. Make 2024 the best! Thank you for your continued support!