Indiana Elks Members Rally for Purdue

LONG BEFORE THE PURDUE CENTER FOR CANCER RESEARCH was founded in 1976, the Indiana Elks Association was generously funding cancer research through Innovative Grants at Purdue. Since 1949, Elks members have collectively raised over 10 million dollars for the cause. In more recent years, funds have been specifically directed to the Purdue Center for Cancer Research for studies that might not otherwise occur. Rather than directly treating patients, the Center’s mission is discovery—to make the tools that treat cancer. We spoke with Purdue Center for Cancer Research Advisory Board member and Indiana Elks member, John Sauer, about the Elk’s civic-minded missions.

Founded in 1868 by a group of New York actors who came together to support a widow and her family, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the country. Their philanthropic projects often include disaster relief assistance, youth outreach, and veteran support. Early examples of Elk philanthropy came in the form of earthquake relief in 1906 and wounded soldier care during World War I. More recently, neighboring state projects include hosting youth camps and providing assistance to those with special needs.

John says that after a conversation involving past Indiana Elk State Presidents at a convention in 1948, it was determined that Indiana’s major project focus would be cancer research, and the Elks wrote their first check to Purdue the following year. 

Each of the more than 70 state lodges organizes its own outreach events—golf outings, ladies’ luncheons, casino nights, and dances. The largest state lodge raises enough money to donate 30 to 40 thousand dollars per year.

Under the valued leadership of chairman Mayo Sanders, President’s Council and the Purdue Center for Cancer Research are extremely thankful for our generous Indiana Elk friends and all they do to fight this dreadful disease.

For John, the Elks represent the essence of community. A cancer survivor himself, he joined the group in 1978 following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “By getting involved, you can touch lives and really make a difference in your community,” states John. 

For more information on this quiet network of good deeds, visit //

Writer:  Andrea Marfell, President’s Council Communications

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