It’s the first time a national convention of Elks and Royal Purple has ever been held in Chilliwack — coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Elks of Canada.
“I feel very proud,” said Jerry Wernicke, national president of the Elks of Canada, who has carried the title of Grand Exalted Ruler for the past year.
Anywhere from 500 to 600 Elks and Royal Purple members will be arriving in Chilliwack starting this weekend for the annual convention, July 24-26 at the Landing Sports Centre.
The economic spinoffs could be considerable, Wernicke said.
“It will bring recognition to Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley with a lot of extra people in town to support local businesses.”
Members of Chilliwack Elks lodge #48 are getting help to mount the convention event with folks from B.C. Elks Region #3 in Delta, White Rock, Cloverdale, Langley and Aldergrove.
Part of the excitement is that the event could generate up to $100,000 for the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, he said.
It helps youth in need of medical assistance, up to $5,000 in grants.
Chilliwack won out over Red Deer, Alberta, in a bid to hold the event here, and part of the reason is that the organization started out in Vancouver back in September 1912, and it seemed a fitting tribute, he said.
Visiting Elks and Royal Purple members will be golfing and visiting Minter Gardens before the official opening on Tuesday.
Wernicke is a 30-year member of the Elks, and spent the past seven years on the Grand Executive. He spent 40 years in a marine-oriented career, and just retired from his role as chief engineer with Seaspan Marine of North Vancouver.
“I’ve always been obligated to serve,” he said. “I enjoy volunteering and helping children.”
His year at Grand Exalted Ruler has seen him personally raise $11,470 for the Children’s Fund by selling a pin with a stylized tugboat on it to honour his marine career.
“I hope to bring it up to $12,000 during the convention,” he said. “My motto has been, ‘Sailing into the future with integrity and pride’ and I hope to impress this upon the membership after my term is over.”