Ferndale Elks Bond w/ T-Rex Parades, Happy Hour Zooms, & Helping Others

Ferndale Elks Bond w/ T-Rex Parades, Happy Hour Zooms, & Helping Others

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 21, 2020)

Ferndale, MI – After weeks of social distancing at home with his family, a four year old named Clyde got an exciting surprise – a parade of inflatable characters prancing through his Ferndale neighborhood.

The joy felt by the child at the sight of dinosaurs, sharks, a giraffe, and even a pink unicorn has been shared by many in isolation as members of the Ferndale Elks #1588 have made their cheerful rounds.

Elks members Sarah and David Ignash have been home waiting for the coronavirus outbreak to be safely over, while their business All American Pet Resorts Lakeshore is closed.  There are others in the club that are figuring out what to do in these uncertain times. Some are out of work and struggling to get unemployment benefits.  Others are business owners who many never recover.  Others are still out there working, donning face masks and facing risk of death to do work that helps others survive. Others suffer with illness and death among their friends and family.  And for a group of people that normally enjoy gathering at the lodge for cheap drinks, friendly chats, and working together on community causes – isolation is an issue.

So of course a parade of interesting creatures seemed like a good idea!

Actually, it was too good of an idea at first.

Sarah, who has had a T-Rex costume for a couple years and got the pink unicorn one for Christmas, decided to put a parade together.

“I saw an article a few weeks ago about a small group of adults somewhere in the country who started going on little walks in their t-rex inflatables to cheer up the kids stuck at home with school being cancelled.

“I posted it on the community forums asking if anyone else had inflatables and wanted to go for a walk… A lot of people were interested, so I made a public event. Within two hours, there were almost 200 people interested!  I had to cancel it because it ballooned into something huge and irresponsible with social distancing and the stay at home order.”

To pull it off in a safe manner, she and hubby David (in the shark suit) had to be more sneaky. They teamed up with their Giraffe friend Sarah Coyne and recruited about a dozen friends from the Elks.  They used the Elks as their meeting spot– and the T-Rex Walking Club was formed!

It must be stressed that safety is a priority when they venture out together.  Sarah said, “In the inflatables, we’re contained and with our tails, maintaining a 6 foot distance is almost necessary.”

“We just walked single file down the sidewalk and people brought their kids out to see us. It was so much fun! And it made a lot of people smile,” she said.

Oscar Renault is chair of the Elks public relations committee.  He also looked great walking around dressed like a dragon.

Ferndale is a very unique and vibrant community, very friendly and very active,” he said.  “We love our amazing community and hopeful that our walks thought the neighborhoods have cheered people up and will again in the future.

“We saw little kids and adults smiling and waving hands. And that’s what our efforts are all about. Service to the community is the ultimate purpose of the Elks and we are glad to that we can continue our efforts during these testing times.”

Not only is the group spreading joy on the sidewalks of the city, they are staying in touch and continuing the good works the 615-member organization is known for.

“We have nightly zoom calls and we also reach out to members to do wellness checks,” Renault said. They are also paying their one employee through the crisis, and they obtained a gratitude grant for the amount of $2500 to go to the Ferndale Professional Firefighters Local 812, to help them with any costs for PPE, food, and help families in the community that are in need.

If anyone has a family in need, they can email ferndalefirerelief@gmail.com Or info@elks1588.com to learn about what help is available.

The walks will continue, but due to safety reasons the locations and times are not announced beforehand.  The Ignash family will continue to be among the characters, and is looking forward to when they can rejoin their fellow Elks without the distance between them.

“I love the Elks. They are my family now. I know everyone who goes there and when we go, it’s so wonderful to walk in and have to spend the first 15 minutes saying hi to everyone and giving hugs. We have nightly Zoom Happy hours at 7 and it has been enormously helpful in keeping us connected and not feeling so alone.”

Learn more about the Ferndale Elks at http://www.elks1588.com/.

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