Column: Let’s shine the publicity spotlight on what the Shriners do

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2002

In this part of the nation the organization known as the Shriners and parades have become almost synonymous.

One of the most reliable and interesting features of area parades comes when the Albert Lea Shriners drive their small cars in various synchronized formations.

Shriner members from other communities such as Austin and Rochester participate in parades as an Oriental band, a smoke-snorting Chinese dragon, and a coordinated troop of daring motorcycle drivers. There are also various Shriner musical groups around the nation, including drum and bugle corps, bagpipe bands, and even a small German-style oompah band in the Twin Cities. Add to this the organization’s sponsorship of yearly circus appearances, usually in big city auditoriums, and one can assume there’s an entertainment purpose for what folks may consider is just another fraternal organization.

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However, there’s much, much more to the Shriners than what we see in the parades or at the circus events. This organization has a serious mission in the nation (plus Canada) which deserves special recognition and a publicity boost.

Part of this mission was depicted with a large drawing on the side of a trailer which was following the Rochester motorcycle riders in the Austin Fourth of July parade. It showed an adult Shriner wearing red fez headgear leading a young child on crutches by the hand.

There are decals and posters which say, &uot;Shriners … Giving help and hope to kids for over 80 years. The 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children provide some of the world’s best specialized medical care, absolutely FREE of charge, to children under 18 with orthopedic and burn problems.&uot;

For more information about this program call 1-800-237-5055, or ask any member of the Shriners.

The orthopedic conditions treated at the Shriners Hospitals include cerebral palsy, foot and leg deformities, limb length discrepancies, limb deficiencies, spina bifida, rickets, spine deformities, hip problems, brittle bone disease, juvenile arthritis, hand and arm deformities, arthrognyposis and scoliosis.

Shriners Hospitals/Twin Cities has been helping youngsters since 1923. This medical facility is located on East River Parkway in Minneapolis and serves the special needs of children from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, the upper peninsula of Michigan, western Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, plus the northwestern portion of Ontario.

For information about this Twin Cities hospital, call 1-888-293-2832, Extension 6105.

To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know too much about the Shriners or the various Masonic orders. However, thanks to Derald Morfitt, I can pass along some added information about the Shriners and their important mission to help children with physical and medical


There are a half-million Shriners in the nation. Four of our former U.S. Presidents – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford and Warren G. Harding – have worn the red fez. Other political leaders of the past and present like Hubert Humphrey, Barry Goldwater, Sam Nunn, Jack Kemp and Robert Dole have been associated with this fine organization.

Other famous names involved with the Shriners include Clark Gable, Tex Ritter, Red Skelton, John Wayne, Danny Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Richards (of the &uot;Seinfeld&uot; show), Dave Thomas (the Wendy’s founder), Ty Cobb, Bart Starr and Arnold Palmer. Then there’s the late Mel Blanc who still provides the voices for Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Taz and so many other characters on the Cartoon Channel. Still another famous Shriner, John Philip Sousa, wrote an excellent march, &uot;Nobles of the Mystic Shrine&uot; in 1923.

Derald Morfitt made a nice request for some publicity regarding the Shriners. This is a request worth honoring, especially if it explains who the Shriners are and what they really do, and if it improves the future for just one area child.

Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.