By Tom Johnson, El Riad Shrine Public Relations Chairman
People know who and what Shriners are—they recognize the well-known red hat (known as a fez) plus the clowns and little cars that they see parading across the Midwest. This weekend, the El Riad Shriners will be out in force in Garretson, South Dakota, to showcase who and what Shriners are and bring to Jesse James Days the most outstanding parade that the community has ever seen.
What most people don’t know is what Shriners do and support.
The fraternity known as Shriners International supports Shriners Hospitals for Children with 22 freestanding hospitals across North America. The cost of running these hospitals exceeds two million dollars per day. The care that is provided to the children who benefit from Shriners Hospitals for Children receive that care regardless of their ability to pay and that is why Shriners parade—to raise funds in order to offset the cost of medical care being provided to our kids.
Locally, we have thousands of kids who have and currently are receiving medical care from Shriners Hospitals for Children and we would like to introduce you to one of them.
On April 23, 2009, in the middle of the night—during what appeared to be a rash, exploded into a life-threatening event for this young child and their entire family. After visiting two medical facilities in critical condition, and suffering from a life-threatening infection of meningitis, young one-year old Gavin from Presho, South Dakota, was flown to Shriners Burn Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Shriners Medical Team was able to stop the spread of infection and work to get Gavin into a stable condition. Over the next decade and a half, Gavin and the medical teams of Shriners Hospitals for Children will be working with him and his family to maintain the multiple skin grafts and challenges that coincide with this horrific disease. Without the intervention of Shriners Hospitals, Gavin would not be with us today. The incredible research and development at our burns hospitals was a direct result in being able to stop the infection and begin the lifetime process of healing.
Young Gavin and his parents, Echo and Curt, are strong supporters of Shriners Hospitals for Children who have covered the costs associated with his medical condition. At the young age of 4, Gavin has already endured over 27 operations to help in the regeneration and grafting of skin due to the complications of the meningitis—which caused his skin to be removed! Now, at 8 years old, and dozens more procedures and surgeries, Gavin continues to be part of the Shrine Family of Kids.
It’s not just the little red hat, or the little cars or clowns or circuses, it’s all about our kids—providing world class medical procedures regardless of the ability to pay for it, and the parades are just one way for us to raise monies needed to do the work of Shriners International.