Mission Viejo Saddleback Valley Exalted Ruler (ER) Mike Klinger welcomed the honored award recipients and their proud parents, to the kickoff meeting of Elk’s annual Youth Appreciation Week. Guests were treated to hot dogs & Hamburgers before the meeting began and filled the Lodge meeting room for the awards ceremony. ER Klinger read the proclamation from The Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Malcolm J. McPherson proclaiming the first week of May as Youth Appreciation Week. Every Elks lodge in the country (over 1900 Lodges) reserve a special night during this week to celebrate the outstanding youth in their area. The special meeting was attended by Laguna Hills Mayor Melody Carruth and Mission Viejo Mayor Pro Tem Greg Raths who also read a proclamation from the City of Mission Viejo honoring the occasion. ER Klinger began the meeting reading an inspirational message to the young boys and girls who worked so hard to achieve their goals. The message was “Struggle Makes You Stronger” A motivational piece which suggests that it is often necessary to endure some pain to achieve success in anything that is worthwhile.
Past Exalted Ruler (PER) Mike Long acted as master of ceremonies for the award presentations. PER Long added his welcome to all and said, “This Lodge of Elks is proud of these youngsters and you parents and teachers who do so much to encourage their efforts to excel.” He added, “Our Lodge is committed to service for the people of our community and proud of our close relationship with the cities of the Saddleback Valley.” Receiving awards for their accomplishments were young students who wrote award winning essays, students who won Elks National Foundation Scholarships, young men who won on the local level for the Elks Hoop Shoot competition, and the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and their leaders who soared above all the others.
National Hoop Shoot: Lodge Hoop Shoot Committee Chairman Daniel Hernandez presented awards to 1st place winners Adam Berlin, Boys 12 and 13 and Dean Martinez, Boys 10 and 11 Division.American Essay Contest: Hundreds of essays were read by Lodge Americanism Essay Chairman, John Lee, and his Essay team. The theme of the essay was “Why our Veterans are America’s Heroes”. Winners were:
Division 1 Grades 5& 6: student Sophia Svoboda, Foothill Ranch Elementary School, Grade 6 Teacher Ms. Hiebert, student Annie Blomquist, Glen Yermo Elementary School Grade 6 Teacher, Ms. Giries, and student Aleah Schisler, Foothill Ranch Elementary School, Grade 6 Teacher Ms. Roesch.
Division 2 Grades 7& 8: student Jessica Nguyen, La Paz Intermediate School Grade 8 Teacher – Ms. Gonsior, student Sophia Koop, La Paz Intermediate School Grade 8 – Ms. Gonsior, and student Tony Istaphanous, La Paz Intermediate School Grade 8 – Ms. Gonsior. Teacher Gonsior was recognized by the Elks for her excellent work with her three (3) eighth grade winners.Elks National Foundation “Most Valuable Student” Scholarship awards: Mission Viejo Elks advanced 3 boys and 3 girls to District competition and 2 of the 6 went on to be State Finalists: Each of the 2 will receive a $4000 scholarship ($1000 per year) from the Elks National Foundation. Receiving the honors were: Ryan Foundoulis, Laguna Hills High School who placed 33rd of 188 in the California, Hawaii Elks Association (CHEA) competition and Matthew Tang, Irvine High School who placed 22nd of 118 in the CHEA competition.
Thom Spratt, Elks Lodge Scouting Chairman presented the following Awards for Scouting:
Pack 603 Cub Scout of the Year: Samuel Trumbly
Pack 603 Cub Scout Leader of the Year: Christine Fritz & Brenda Boelter
Pack 603 Cub Scout Extra Effort Award: Jeff Goold
Pack 603 Cub Scout Arrow of Light Award: Leon Bayles, Brandon Boelter, Josh Calen, James Grace, Peter Hines, Gavin Pasek, Samuel Trumbly, Devin Boothe
Troop 603 Boy Scout of the Year: Donovan McFann
Troop 603 Boy Scout Leader of the Year: Tracie Forse

Honorees received a thunderous round of applause from the appreciative audience of family and Lodge members present as they approached the podium to accept their awards. The meeting concluded with the singing of God Bless America by all. Photos were taken and refreshments were served. Lodge #2444 is celebrating 49 years of service to Saddleback Valley Communities. It is one of 8 lodges in the Orange Coast District of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) whose headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois. The BPOE is a charitable organization with a 150 year history of giving. “Elks Care Elks Share” For information regarding Elks programs or membership, call 949 830-3557

Pack 603 Cub Scout Arrow of Light Winners Gavin Pasek, Leon Bayles, Brandon Boelter, Samuel Trumbly and Scout Master Thom Spratt

Elks Hoop Shoot Boys 12-13 Winner Adam Berlin with MV Elks Hoops Shoot Chairman Daniel Hernandez

Pack 603 Cub Scout Leaders of the Year Brenda Boelter and Christine Fritz with MV Elks Scout Chairman Thom Spratt

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Raths presents Past Exalted Ruler Mike Long with City of Mission Viejo Youth Appreciation Week Proclamation