What is a Shriner? What kind of organization attracts physicians, lawyers, truck drivers, dentists, contractors, heads of state, movie stars, generals, clergymen and accountants?
Someone might answer: “Shriners are those guys who have those parades with the wild costumes and funny little cars.” Another might think of circuses and clowns. The fellow next to him might interject, “No, Shriners are the guys who wear those funny hats — like flowerpots — and have those big conventions.”
“I don’t know about that,” a passerby might add. “But I do know my little girl was born with clubfeet and now they are straight, and she can walk, thanks to Shriners Hospitals for Children.”
“She can walk?” questions still another. “I thought the Shriners ran those fantastic burn hospitals. I’ve read stories about them saving kids with burns on 90 percent of their bodies.”
All those people are right. Each has experienced an aspect of Shrinedom. What they cannot experience, unless they are Shriners, is the camaraderie, deep friendships, good fellowship and great times shared by all Shriners. What they may not know is that all Shriners share a Masonic heritage: Each is a Master Mason in the Freemasonry Fraternity.
Historically, Masons had to become members of the York or Scottish Rite Bodies
before becoming a Shriner. However, at the Imperial Council Session in July 2000, an amendment to Shrine law changed that requirement, allowing Master Masons to become Shriners directly.
There are approximately 400,000 Shriners now. They gather in temples, or chapters, throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama.
There are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children providing care for orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. These hospitals have helped approximately 835,000 children — at no cost to parent or child — since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922.
How did it all start? How does it work?