"It gives me the freedom to focus on realizing my fullest potential as an engineer at VCU, rather than being forced to let financial worries impede my academic success. Being an Elks Scholar means having a gret burden lifted off my shoulders and a chance to pursue my dreams without anything to hold me back. With the strength of the Elks community at my side, I hope to one day become a top engineer at a major company."
Pooja Nanjannavar, Scholar


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Advocating for All
For Katie Chambers, service has always been a way of life. She applied for her 2003 Most Valuable Student scholarship because she was drawn to the Elks commitment to strengthen communities. Throughout college and after graduation, Katie’s dedication to service grew even deeper. That is why the ENF is proud to present Katie with the 2010 Elks Alum of the Year award!

Making Each Day Meaningful

Thanks to her Elks MVS scholarship, sponsored by Rock Hill, S.C., Lodge No. 1318, Katie was able to attend the University of South Carolina, where she majored in economics.

“My MVS scholarship helped fund a rewarding, purposeful undergraduate experience,” explains Katie. “I am very thankful for the Elks’ support over the years.”

Because Katie did not have to worry about funding her college education, she was able to focus on what was most important to her—helping others. From the beginning of her college career, Katie helped to bring her classmates together by serving on the Freshman Council and sponsoring several community service projects such as Habitat for Humanity and Dance Marathon. In addition to her work with the student council, throughout college Katie regularly volunteered with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters afterschool program and served as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army at Christmastime. Katie’s favorite volunteer experience was her work at hospitals, where she helped make patients comfortable and worked closely with them to ensure their individual needs were met.

By the time Katie graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina in 2007, she was married, had a young child named Briggs, had completed hundreds of hours of community service, and was set to begin her career in medicine. Little did she know that her commitment to service had only begun.

A Network of Opportunity

In June 2008, Katie’s son was diagnosed with Cerebral Folate Deficiency, a rare disorder. At the time of his diagnosis, only 10 other children in the world were known to have the condition. Because of Briggs’ fragile health, Katie and her husband have spent more than 200 nights in the hospital in the past three years, and Briggs has had several surgeries.

“We are unsure of his prognosis since there is so little known about this condition,” says Katie. “However, we fight daily to ensure his chance at the best quality of life possible, and see that he is afforded the opportunity to develop to his full potential.”

Through it all, Katie and her family have grown stronger and have made the most of their difficult situation by advocating for children with special needs. She has grown close to the network of parents with children who have special needs in her area, and together they have bonded through their trials and triumphs.

“I have had the immeasurable opportunity to learn from a whole new community of people and organizations that have made my life deeper and richer than it ever could have been,” says Katie.

Now, at the end of her first year of medical school, she has made it her mission to work for greater awareness of and sensitivity to children with disabilities.

Building Connections

As the 2010 Elks Alum of the Year, Katie will speak at the Elks Grand Lodge Convention in Orlando, Fla., on Monday morning. This prestigious award is given each year to a graduated Elks scholar who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to service. Katie will serve on the Elks Scholar Advisory Board, a board composed of eight Elks scholars and alumni dedicated to getting Elks scholars involved with each other and the Elks. In addition, the Elks National Foundation will present her with a $500 grant to be donated to the nonprofit organization of her choice.

Katie will use her grant to support Family Connection of South Carolina, Inc. Katie’s family is deeply committed to this organization, which works to help children with special needs reach their full potential.

“Thanks to Family Connection, I have never felt alone in facing the difficulties of raising a child with special needs,” explains Katie. “Just days after my son’s diagnosis, I received phone calls from supportive parents and information on how to connect with other families near me who have children with special needs.”

We are proud of Katie’s ongoing service as an Elks scholar and look forward to her continued work as both a doctor and a mother to help children with special needs, and bring awareness to the challenges faced by families with children with disabilities.

“The Elks stand above all others in their effort to support individuals trying to invest in their communities, collectively working on thousands of projects nationwide,” says Katie. “I am so impressed by the way the Elks have made an impact on me on a personal level and plan to maintain a lifelong commitment to this incredible organization.”

For more information about Elks scholars, please visit www.elks.org/enf/elksscholars.


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