The Skagway Elks #431 have won their first ever Impact Grant from the Elks National Foundation.

The grant will be used for a project called “Light for Skagway”, a health and educational program concerning vitamin D deficiency.

“I worked with John Hischer at the clinic and did a lot of research to come up with the plan,” Andrew Cremata

of the Skagway Elks said.

Part of the grant will be used to install special lighting at the Elks lodge that radiate the same type of light

given from the sun, which can be important during the darker months of winter.

“The lights are different than a tanning bed because they usually have the (ultraviolet) wavelength turned off,” Cremata said.

While the lights could be used on the arms, the Elks will be building booths for the lights, so that people will be able to get the light on their back or stomach, which is more ideal for absorbing vitamin D.

Additionally, the Elks will be doing two mental health clinics informing individuals about the importance of vitamin D in Alaska, Cremata said.

“There are multiple scientific studies that confirm the link between vitamin D deficiency and high suicide rates,” Cremata said.

With the vitamin D link in mind, the Elks are targeting three groups: veterans with PTSD, children undergoing peer pressure or depression and those susceptible to substance abuse.

The plan will start out with two clinics, with the first happening in January, that will offer free vitamin D testing for those involved in the test group.

“We’re going to start with a test group of 25 people and test them for vitamin D. Presumably, they’re all going to be low,” Cremata said.

The group is then going to be given use of the lights and will have their vitamin D levels tracked over the next three months.

“If it’s someone going on vacation from February 10 and not coming back until March, we’d prefer not to have that person (in the test group),”  Cremata said.

While anyone is open to apply to be part of the test group, the Elks are looking primarily for people who can’t get vitamin D testing covered by insurance and those who will be in town for the entirety of the winter season.

For people outside of the test group, there will be information given in pamphlets about the importance of vitamin D.

Beyond the testing, the Elks are going to offer training seminars so people can learn to identify if someone is going through an issue and may need help.

“We did something like (the training) last year for our bartenders,” Cremata said.

The grant, given by the Elks National Foundation is an Impact Grant, which is given to Elk lodges across the country who are working on projects to improve their communities.

“This grant is the largest one that the (Elks National Foundation) offers,” Cremata said.

This marks the first time an Alaskan Elks lodge has been the recipient of an Impact Grant.

“I think they like the idea and that it’s going to have a lot of involvement from our lodge members,” Cremata said.

If you’re interested in learning more, or to sign-up to be a part of the test group, contact the Elks at (907) 983-2235 or e-mail Andrew Cremata at ajcremata@live.com.