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Storytelling for Giving: Best Thing Ever
I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and found that life was service.
I acted and behold! Service became joy.
– Rabindranath Tagore
It all began one day at the gym.
For some time Len Elliott had been interested in the Masons and their history. “While I was working out this young man asked me to spot him while he bench pressed,” says Len. “I noticed he had a Masonic ring on his hand and I asked how he became a Mason. The boy said he just asked, applied and did the work. Eventually, I made a few calls to the Grand Lodge and the Masonic Lodge and found my way in. Once I got in the door, I got my three degrees to become a Master Mason and then was able to join the Shrine.”
While becoming a Mason and a Shriner, which Len says he simply loves, he’s also been fortunate enough to combine his passion for giving and serving with his other love – riding.
“We’re a group inside the Boumi Temple in Baltimore called the Boumi Motor Corps,” says Len. The Motor Corps is dedicated to those Shriners who enjoy fellowship and the open road. They constantly improve their riding skills and participate in drill competitions, slow races, obstacle courses and are always the hit of any parade.
“We do parades and live riding demonstrations for veteran’s hospitals, as well as doing routines and special drills,” says Len. “Last year we competed in Daytona and this year we’ll do the same thing in Nashville, going up against other Shriner units. There’s always a Shriner’s parade after the event and people come from all over the world. I meet people from places like Mexico and Canada who come to compete and it’s like I’ve known them my whole life. Being a Mason and the brotherhood it represents, it’s just the best organization in the world.”
The Boumi Motor Corps also does incredible work in raising awareness and funds for children in need. Len says, “we ride so kids can walk. We receive donations for and donate a lot of money to transportation funds to make sure kids are taken to the hospitals if they need to be, or if the family needs a place to stay. We do an annual event called Christmas in July, with the Centurion Club in Philadelphia. We ride up to the police academy in Philly and they shut down I-95 at Broad Street, as we all take gifts to the boys and girls in the hospitals. It hits home, it really does. Parents from all over the world stay at these hospitals, they are literally in tears when they see us and they come up to take pictures with us and to say thank you.”
Len and his wife Rose also live their own challenges with two young boys, Lenny, age 10 and Shane, age 8. Both boys are high-functioning autistic and Len says while they have their challenges, they definitely understand what’s going on. “With autistic children, it’s the little things, the simple things that can present challenges, like tying your shoes. But we treat them as normal children and don’t look at autism as a crutch in life. The goal is to give them the best life possible and provide them with the tools to succeed. I know they will go on to do amazing things.”
Besides his family, Len says his great success and fulfillment in life has come from being a Masons and a Shriner… and earning the right to be both. “It’s just a different level of learning,” says Len. “You come in as an Entered Apprentice, you know nothing, you are just starting out, then you get proficient to become a Fellowcraft and then the highest rank anyone can earn, Master Mason. You are literally building your eternal temple.”
Len continues, “I’m in this for life. It’s something I believe in and look forward to. I love the purpose and the cause and of course, I love my motorcycle. I now ride a 2008 Ultra-Classic Harley Davidson.” It’s a far cry from Len’s first bike, a Honda ATC 200. “Back then we were riding bikes in the fields, the woods and through the old pig farm,” says Len. “We were drinking beer and raising hell,” he says. But then after his next two bikes, a Honda 250R, and a Harley Davidson Fat Boy, Len says he decided to get licensed and insured. Now, he says he’s happy with his Shriner’s Edition Harley.
“I love to ride, I love being a Shriner and the brotherhood and fellowship of being a Mason. I love that we are here for a purpose, but also have fun doing what we do. It’s incredible to meet all the brothers. Being part of the Motor Corps you get a chance to see much more of the country, and then put a name with a face and spend time with them… the camaraderie and connection take you away from everyday life. Nearly everywhere we go we do group rides and get to explore the town, or go and hang out at a local restaurant.”
The Motor Corps is made up of 80 to 90 members, about half of whom still actively ride. “We have members from all over the world,” says Len. “They pay their dues, but not all of them can physically get on the bikes anymore. We have one member who is in his 80’s, he marches with us and carries the Boumi Motor Corps banner. It’s cool that everyone is still involved. And it’s always safety first.”
Safety is even at the heart of Len’s current occupation. He serves as a car man for Amtrak, doing train departure tests and inspections. It’s part of his job to make sure everyone on the Marc trains are good-to-go. The job keeps him busy, but never too busy to ride for good as well.
It’s all good for Len, his role as a Shriner and a Mason is one of the most wonderful things he’s done with his life. “My participation has made me a better man, a better father, it’s made me an all-around better person. You get out of it what you put into it. It is absolutely amazing. The way it’s improved my life, without a doubt, it’s the best thing ever.”
Learn more about the Baltimore Boumi Temple Motor Corps:
This story as well as all of the others on our website are written by Mark Brodinsky, an Emmy-Award winning television producer, speaker, popular blogger, and published author. You can find more information about Mark on his website at http://markbrodinsky.life/