District No. 1720

Florida Elks Children's Hospital - History

Did you know?
The idea for the Florida Elks Children's Hospital in Umatilla originated in the fertile mind of David Sholtz of Daytona Beach, past grand exalted ruler of the Florida Elks, who was to be a successful candidate for governor of Florida the following year.
It was an idea whose time had come. The Florida Elks had no single humanitarian project behind which all could gather, and there was no place where crippled children in Florida could get the help they needed without charge.
Sholtz, an effusive, persuasive doer, had some good friends who helped him see the fruition of his idea. Two of them were H.R.P. Miller, a Eustis financier, and his wife, Anna. The Millers owned a large, three-story hotel in Umatilla worth, in those days, $250,000. They generously gave it to the Florida State Elks Association. In their honor, the hospital was named the Harry-Anna Home for Crippled Children.
Another important donor was Harry Miller's friend Samuel Owens, then 82, a resident of Umatilla and former Lake County treasurer, who gave 50 acres adjacent to the building.
The dedication ceremony was Nov. 1, 1931, and the property was accepted by J. Edwin Baker of West Palm Beach, president of the Florida Elks. Baker was hired as superintendent of the home in its early days, and he moved to Umatilla. Later, he was elected state senator from Lake County and, in 1944, ran unsuccessfully for governor.
In the late 1960s, the home took on the status of a special pediatric orthopedic hospital and became the Florida Elks Harry-Anna Crippled Children's Hospital. In 1976, the building the Millers had donated was so badly in need of repair that the Elks decided to demolish it and build a new hospital. The children were temporarily moved to what is now Eustis Manor.
The current facility was completed in July 1977 at a cost of $2.146 million. All the funds came from private donations given principally by Elks.
Until 1985, the hospital continued to be known as the Harry-Anna Crippled Children's Hospital. In 1985, the Florida Elks changed the name to Florida Elks Children's Hospital, believing the change more accurately reflected the institution's mission and purpose. The names of the original benefactors, the Millers, are perpetuated by the hospital's endowment fund, known as the Harry-Anna Trust.
To be eligible for admission to the hospital, the patient must be a resident of Florida, from newborn to 17 years of age, and have an orthopedic condition or problem. Children who meet the criteria are admitted without regard to race, religion or relationship to an Elks member. The hospital has 100 beds and can accommodate that many in-patients, but it also cares for out-patients.
At the dedication on Nov. 1, 1931, the Rev. P.J. Downey of New Smyrna Beach, chaplain of the state Elks association, pictured the hospital as enduring ''until countless children shall come to be healed.''
He paid tribute to the donors and prayed for a rallying of the Elks to the institution, ''such a rallying as this part of the country has never seen in intensity, in earnestness and in love.''
The thousands of children who have been cared for and healed at the hospital will tell you that prayer has been, and is, answered.
Harry Miller modestly wanted credit for the success of the project to go to David Sholtz, ''who has devoted untold energy, time and money to bring it to the point you now see it, for without him this could not have been accomplished.''
After Sholtz was elected governor, Miller asked Sholtz to do him a favor and Sholtz refused. This so enraged Miller that he considered removing the governor's signed picture from his office, but thought better of it. Instead, using a heavy black pen, he wrote ''INGRATE'' across Sholtz's portrait.
Their personal feud never touched the crippled children's home, however. The home continued to grow and thrive. And in their separate ways, so did David Sholtz and Harry Miller.
-Ormund Powers, 1994

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