AUBURN | The Elks Lodge in Auburn hosted a chicken barbecue Sunday in support of United Cerebral Palsy, a charitable organization that helps raise awareness for the disorder.

The barbecue was just one in a series of multiple fundraisers that the Elks Lodge holds each year, with their major focus being on United Cerebral Palsy.

"This is the organization that we work with the most," said Michael Gleason, past district deputy at the Elks Lodge.

United Cerebral Palsy is a non-profit group of advocates for cerebral palsy, a motor condition that causes physical disability and impacts nerve functions. The foundation's mission is to help advance the independence of people living with the illness.

Gleason explained that each state designates one charitable organization as their "major project," and all the Elks locations in that state work to help raise money for it. The major project in New York is United Cerebral Palsy, making it the main focus at more than 100 Elks lodges across the state.

"I've been with the Elks Lodge for 35 years and, for as long as I can remember, cerebral palsy has always been our major project," Gleason said.

The lodge holds barbecue fundraisers once a month from February to October to raise money for charities. Though a good portion of it goes to United Cerebral Palsy, Gleason said that they also work with some local causes.

Last month, the Elks Lodge hosted a fundraiser for local schools to purchase new dictionaries for third- and fourth-grade classes. They also held an event last summer to raise money for the Auburn High School cheerleading squad, who used the donation to purchase new floor mats for the gym.

"We keep our eye out for people in the neighborhood who may need help," Gleason said. "All the money we make goes right back to the community."

The Elks' partnership with United Cerebral Palsy also has ties to the community, Gleason explained, with the E. John Gavras Center in Auburn being one of the charity's local sites.

The lodge raises between $5,000 and $6,000 a year, on average, for charities and also puts forth extra effort toward the scholarships given by the Elks National Foundation, which awards the second-largest amount of college scholarships in the country each year.

Gleason said that the Elks Lodge and United Cerebral Palsy work closely together throughout the year and that the charity is always grateful for the donations.

"We are here for the community," he said. "This is what the Elks Lodge is for."

Staff writer Kelsey Durham can be reached at 282-2237 or kelsey.durham@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenDurham.

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