The Ray Carlson Memorial gets the majority of it’s support from the Saint Joseph/Benton Harbor Elks Lodge, #541. Elks Lodge member, Craig Carlson, started the Memorial within the walls of the Lodge in January 1993. Since it’s humble beginnings, The Ray Carlson Memorial has grown exponentially to include support from hundreds of donors throughout Berrien County in Michigan.
In March 1958, there was a business man by the name of Ray Carlson who was a local retailer, family man, and father to a new baby boy. His son, born March of 1958, was a special-needs child. When born, his son’s feet were on backwards. The decision was made to operate and turn his son’s feet around, despite the realities of caring for a special-needs who may not be able to walk, even after the operation.
After the operation, the Carlsons took their son home and started their lives with a special-needs child. They worked with their son for seven-and-a-half years through countless hours of rehab. Headway was slow and payments for his rehabilitation and hospital care were difficult to make. One day, there was a knock at the door and a gentleman from the Saint Joseph Elks Lodge told the Carlsons that he had heard heard about their son’s needs and wanted to offer their assistance, including equipment and monetary donations. And for a long while, the gentleman sat and spoke with the Carlsons about their situation. Being a proud man, Mr. Carlson declined any help but thanked the gentleman for his time and consideration.
Years later Mr. Carlson joined the St. Joseph Elks Lodge because he was so moved by the work these fine gentlemen did. Flash forward to January 1993. After having lost his father in September of 1991, Ray’s son Craig, of Saint Joseph Elks Lodge #541, decided to start the Ray Carlson Memorial Fund to honor his father’s memory, and expand upon the Elks’ generosity. This fund was set up to help special-needs Children in Berrien County Michigan. It started out slow with only raising a couple hundred dollars. Over the past 23 years, it has grown into the single largest fundraiser at the Saint Joseph Elks Lodge. Thanks to the tremendous support from the Elks, its’ members and the community, thousands of dollars are raised each year, with every penny going directly to the special-needs children of Berrien County. Special needs include ailments like juvenile diabetes, juvenile arthritis, cancer, hearing loss, and speech and physical impairments. With the continued support of everyone involved, we plan to raise more, and help more children in need each and every year.