VA Black Hills Health Care System
Every year they come. Through all kinds of Midwest winter weather they come. For over 26 years the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks from the Pierre, South Dakota area have honored their commitment to America’s heroes.
Every year, for over 26 years, they have delivered holiday gifts, goodies, cards, treats and greetings to Veterans at the Hot Springs VA Medical Center and the South Dakota State Veterans Home. These beloved "Santa Elks" request gifts, receive gifts, wrap gifts and deliver gifts to Veterans in Hot Springs. Their task is daunting – requesting, sorting, collecting, and wrapping is difficult enough, but if you don’t live in the Midwest imagine driving Santa’s sleigh ( a U-haul) filled to the brim with gifts through snow, wind, sleet, ice, etc.
The heartwarming part of this story is that these "Santa Elks" continue to come year after year. They have involved the entire community of Pierre, South Dakota – Veteran Service Organizations, community members, Veterans, school children and their teachers, the Senior Center and Pierre area businesses, ALL contribute to make sure every Veteran is remembered during the holiday season. Jerry Wattier, Elks Coordinator for this annual event humbly states, "We do this for our Veterans, when you think of what they did for us it’s the very least we can do for them."