The Start of Crippled Children Work
in New Jersey
Written in 1931
The following information on the start of the New Jersey State Elks Association Handicapped Children Committee is presented as originally published in 1931. While not “Politically Correct” by todays editorial standards, it does present the sentiments of PGER Joseph Buch and the efforts that brought this important committee into being here in the State of New Jersey.
“Gee, I almost wish I only had one leg” said a little fellow who was sound in body and limb, as he stood on the crowded wharf at Trenton and witnessed the departure of the first outing for crippled children in New Jersey on August 7, 1922. Many women among the hundreds on the wharf had tears in their eyes as the watched the steamer Dolphin, decks crowed with more than 700 crippled little boys and girls, pull out into the Delaware River and head for Burlington Island State Park, the picnic spot selected.
The Trenton State Gazette said editorially of the affair the next morning:
“If all the nice things said by the people of Trenton about the Elks and their crippled kiddies outing could be gathered together and printed in one, it would make a good sized and glorious monument to the energetic generosity of this aggregation of good fellows.”
Like so many projects that had a small beginning, the story of the reclamation of crippled children in New Jersey is one that reads like a romance. For several years prior to 1922 Joseph G. Buch (Pronounced Book), of Trenton, had been interested as an individual in caring for some neighborhood crippled children. He soon realized that his best efforts were feeble when compared with the great need.
When elected President of the New Jersey State Elks Association in 1922, Mr. Buch envisioned a crippled children’s rehabilitation program for the Elks Lodges of New Jersey. On his recommendation made at the annual meeting of the State Association in July, 1922, at which he was elected President, the first Monday in August was later designated as an ‘Annual Crippled Children’s Outing Day.’
The crippled children’s outing on August 7, 1922 (MR. Buch’s birthday anniversary) was sponsored by Trenton Lodge #105. At this late date it is learned from former Officers of the Lodge that the entire expense of the outing ( probably more than $1500.00) was borne personally by Mr. Buch. When questioned about it he said:
“I never intended that for publication. it is only the sort of thing thousands of real Elks are doing in all parts of the country. I used to give a birthday picnic to some of my friends at a cost of several hundred dollars. I began to reflect what a waste this was compared to an outing or picnic for crippled children. I was fairly prosperous in a business way and out of gratitude to humanity in general. I decided to take up the rehabilitation of crippled children as a life hobby, if it may be called that”
And a “hobby” it has ever since been with “Joe” Buch. In 1922-23, while President of the New Jersey State Elks’ Association, he circularized every Elks Lodge in the United States on the subject of crippled children. He traveled up and down and across the State of New Jersey time and again preaching the doctrine of “helping crippled children to help themselves "until it was taken up by the State Elks’ Association and now has the cooperation of other civic and fraternal organizations as well as that of the State of New Jersey itself.
At the outset Mr. Buch himself scarcely envisioned the all embracing program that has now developed. It was not at first realized what a vast amount of work was involved. Many Elk Lodges were slow in taking it up, but finally came the conviction that here was a humanitarian service which the Elks were qualified to lead, and which their obligation prompted them to carry on.
During his year as President of the State Elks’ Association Mr. Buch visited all of the New Jersey Lodges and said to them, in substance:
“A fraternal Order can live and grow only through service. This is offered us in the work for crippled children. From my own limited connection with it I can assure that by reclaiming these little unfortunates and making them happy, the hearts of us all will be softened.”
It is impossible to get from Mr. Buch’s own lips the story of his struggles, discouragement’s, disappointments and the rebuffs he met with from time to time in promoting his crippled children’s program.
“Some persons did not quickly grasp the great importance and value of it to humanity,” he says. “Success is now in sight and that should make us forget everything else.”
Joseph G. Buch is Chairman of the New Jersey State Elks’ Crippled Children’s Committee, Chairman of the New Jersey State Crippled Children’s Commission, member of the New Jersey State rehabilitation Commission, and a member of President Hoover’s White House Conference on child health and protection. He has addressed meetings in nearly one-half of the States on the subject of rehabilitation of crippled children, but he refuses to accept any special praise except as one of a group made of members of the crippled Children’s Committee of the New Jersey State Elks’ Association.
“The other members of the committee are entitled to just as much of the credit as I am,” he said ” I make suggestions and recommendations, and the others on the committee do the work”