When Rick Gathen first suggested a as a fundraiser for the Lake Hopatcong Elks, people told him it was crazy and it wouldn’t work.
“That’s when I knew I had to do it,” he said.
The third annual Leap in the Lake happened on Saturday. Gathen said he anticipated that this year’s leap would far exceed the proceeds from last year’s.
The event, which raises funds for special needs in the 11 towns the Elks Club 782 serves, started with 37 participants in its first year.
“Last year we tripled what we had the first year, and this year it looks like we’ll have about 200 people leaping, and about 400 people here,” he said. “And I couldn’t be more delighted. It’s turned into a real event.”
While total proceeds was not yet available, Gathen said he hoped to make $75,000 on Saturday’s event.
Gathen said the funds are used for any kind of special needs programs.
“If the schools want to take the kids on a trip to the Bronx Zoo, we will help with that. We want to be able to be part or all of the answer to a financial need,” Gathen said. “There’s no reason kids and teachers should have to beg for money or worry about funding a trip. Instead of crying about all the cuts the state has made, let’s fix the problem.”
Gathen noted that Elks funding helped save the Hopatcong High School golf program last year when it came up $3,000 short on funds.
“That helped 18 kids in the high school,” he said.
No one gets paid to do any work at the leap, Gathen said.
“Everything, from time to talent to food, is 100% volunteered,” he said. “If it’s not completely from the heart, we don’t want it. Everyone volunteers, and every penny is distributed.”
The Elks also sponsor youth activities in their 11 towns, including sports and Boy and Girl Scouts.
Each year the group also sponsors about 300 children and their families at the holidays.
“We buy one gift for each kid that they ask for, and one that they need, like clothing,” he said. “We also make a basket of food for the family.”
For more information on the Lake Hopatcong Elks Club 782, visit www.lakehopatcongelks.com.