My dad is a Shriner. You know, the guys with the funny little red hats. (Funny red hat = fez, for future reference) He even has a little Camaro go-cart that he rides in parades. In fact, my dad has been the parade loving, fund-raising Shriner since before I was born. I grew up around those guys, had my own personal clowns that visited me at each parade, and sold drinks at the annual Shrine Circus when I was a teenager.
But, what many people don’t realize, is that the Shriners do amazing philanthropy work. Amazing. And I’m not just saying that because my dad has spent 30+ years raising money to help the children. I’m saying that because I have seen it.
I had the honor of accompanying my dad on a recent trip to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Greenville, SC. My dad volunteers as a Road Runner, a guy who transports children to the various Shrine Hospitals around the country. These hospitals treat children with various orthopedic and neuromusculoskeletal disorders and diseases…for free. There are also a few Shriners Hospitals that specialize in treating children with extreme burns. And it’s all free. That’s right, free. They pay for the children and their families to be transported to the hospitals, pay for their room and board (including the families), and pay for all of their treatment, follow-up, and prosthetics, medicines, labs, etc. Just take a moment and let that soak in.
This fraternal organization spends all of its fund raising efforts to fund these hospitals and provide sick and injured children with state-of-the-art care, without charging their families a penny. This is mind-blowing to me.
So, back to my story. I went with dad to transport a child to Greenville and had the pleasure of touring the hospital. The Greenville Hospital is an amazing place that is built for the children. Every aspect of the hospital is meant to make the patients comfortable and to take away the “scare factor” associated with a regular hospital. Here, take a look:
On the second floor, there are many places to be found. The hospital rooms and family rooms are on one end. The picture below shows the big open area that encompasses play areas, cafeteria area, and OT/PT area. The picture was taken from one of the television areas, looking toward the tables where families can dine. To the left is a small gift shop, as well as a play area for patients and their families. There are pool tables, air hockey tables, a small library, some toys for smaller children, and a racecar simulator. To the far right is the small cafeteria. (There is a huge cafeteria and food court in the adjoining “regular” hospital.) To the near right is the OT/PT area, where patients can receive occupational and physical therapy. I love that they have bright sunlight rather than flourescent lighting when they’re doing their therapy! I got to see a little boy practicing how to walk on his prosthetic using a treadmill. Just another bit of proof that the Shriners hospitals help miracles happen on a daily basis.
The Road Runners have a lounge to use while they wait for their patients to finish with the doctors. In here, the runners sign in and log their trips. There are snacks, drinks, a tv, and comfy recliners where they can rest up before their drives home.
As a Shriner’s kid, I’ve grown up knowing that my dad cared for the children who needed extra care. As an adult, I finally got to see the place that my dad’s lifetime of giving has helped to build. These hospitals, located around the country, are amazing. The care the children receive is phenomenal, and it warms my heart to know that thousands of Shrine Daddies around the world help raise money to fund these hospitals and their programs.
If you’ve never heard of the Shriners, check out a little information about them here. If you’d like to learn more about the hospitals around the United States and Canada, this link will take you to the hospital pages. You’ll be shocked at how much they do! Do you know a child who could benefit from treatment at the hospitals? This link will tell you how to refer a patient.
And, if it’s on your heart to help further their cause, you can donate here.
I will always be proud of my Daddy and the loving generosity of Shriners everywhere.