2006 - 2017  I.O.O.F. Educational Pilgrimage for Youth

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Educational Pilgrimage for Youth

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Each delegate will be limited to one (1) piece of luggage, in addition to one carry on.

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2017 Tour 

July 8-18

July 15-25

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Pilgrimage History

Conrad Hansen

Conrad Hansen

... and in the beginning ...

The birth of the Pilgrimage for Youth, sponsored by the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, occurred with initial plans made during 1949. During that year The Sovereign Grand Lodge adopted a Bill which allowed the Sovereign Grand Master to appoint a Youth Committee.

Sovereign Grand Master Edward M. Sharpe, a Supreme Court Justice in Michigan, appointed James S. Lombard, past grand master and serving as grand patriarch of Minnesota, chairman of The Sovereign Grand Lodge's Youth Committee.
Brother Lombard was given a free hand, not only to pick his committee members but also to make a selection of a field man without regard to membership in the Order. It was the committee's mission to find a continent-wide project for Odd Fellowship such as the American Legion had in its "Boys State" and the YMCA had in its "Youth and Government."
Brother Lombard selected Conrad Hansen who had 30 years of experience as a YMCA official. The new field man was initiated as a Odd Fellow to better enable him to work with the Junior Odd Fellows Lodges and Theta Rho GilsClubs, also his responsibility in addition to launching a new program for Odd Fellowship.
The idea of the Pilgrimage for Youth really began to take shape in January of 1950 with Brother Hansen outlining his idea to Chairman Lombard. Brother Hansen believed such a project might well give expression to Odd Fellowship's emphasis on brotherhood and understanding by making it possible for young people sponsored by the Order to have the opportunity to study and observe the United Nations in action.
The Commission to Study Odd Fellowship looked favorably upon the plans for the Pilgrimage, suggesting that permission be sought to undertake a pilot group during the summer of 1950. Fortunately for both the project and Odd Fellowship, Brother Sharpe gave the needed permission. Thus the Pilgrimage for Youth was born!
The pilot group consisted of 46 boys and girls and eleven adult leaders from eleven jurisdictions who arrived in New York on June 25, 1950. Jurisdictions represented were Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Nebraska. These young people, mostly 16 and 17 years of age, juniors and seniors in high school, were selected on standards of character, leadership, good scholarship, and interest in civic and spiritual matters. All were sponsored by Odd Fellow and Rebekah Lodges.
The young people visited the United Nations Headquarters, and witnessed the Trusteeship Council in session. They enjoyed meeting foreign students at the International House and gained insight into world affairs by visiting the delegations of other nations.
And of course, they took in the sights of New York City, as guests of the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. They visited the Statue of Liberty, enjoyed a boat trip around Manhattan Island, toured Rockefeller Center, saw radio and TV programs in the making, strolled through Chinatown, took in a major league baseball game and were thrilled by Radio City Music Hall. Today, the young people continue to visit many of the same places with additional sights in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Gettysburg and Niagara Falls.
In 1951 bus tours were inaugurated, four buses participating that year. It was also during 1951 that California participated with 12 delegates, riding the train from Sacramento to Kansas City where they joined one of the original bus tours.

Conrad Hansen retired on February 1, 1965, as director of the Pilgrimage. Other directors following him were Charles Worrell of Tennesse, 1965 and 1966; H. Glenn Brant of Montana, 1967-1975; June D. Calderone of Maryland, 1975-1980; Mary T. Cook of Indiana, 1981-1994. Lori Witczak of Florida, 1995-2001; Mercedes Miller of North Carolina, 2001-2003; Charles Benson of Ontario, New York City staff, on Board of Directors, Interim Executive Director  2004, Executive Director 2005- 2009; Michael Dutton of Tennessee, 2009-2013; Janet L. Bruce of Idaho, on Board of Directors, Executive Director 2013 to present.

In later years, students were bussed from all over the United States and Canada, stopping along the way to visit historic sights, meet the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, and visiting many Odd Fellow Halls. Students from other countries were flown into New York or joined one of the bus tours. During those years the California bus usually departed from Stockton, Elk Grove, Linden, Delano or Sacramento. In some years there were two California buses. Now most Pilgrimage delegates are flown to a central point in the east like Philadelphia to begin a 10 to 14 day Historical East Coast tour.
From its small beginning more than 65 years ago, the Odd Fellows-Rebekahs Pilgrimage for Youth has become an outstanding program. Young people, high school sophomores and juniors, from every state in the United States, every province in Canada, and from many other countries around the world have benefited by participating in this program.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is proud to continue to offer young people around the world this valuable educational experience. Thus the vision of Brothers Lombard and Hansen more than 60 years ago is still in sharp focus today: sharing a vision of hope for a better world.

Thanks to California, Michigan, and Minnesota for this information. 

There is a lot of history between 1949 and now!