08/02/05 — The red fez: It stands for more than entertainment

View Archive

The red fez: It stands for more than entertainment

Many know Shriners for their colorful parades, the guys wearing funny red hats that look like upside-down flower pots, and doing crazy antics with their tiny vehicles.

We all know them, too, for their annual fish fries. And on some nearby trailer probably will be a sign: “A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a crippled child.”

And therein is the greatest contribution of the Shrine organization.

For more than 80 years, Shriners have been operating the world’s finest hospitals to treat severely crippled children and, for much of that time, those with severe burns.

Such treatment is awesomely expensive. But the cost to families of the some 770,000 children treated at the Shriners Hospitals has been zero. Inability of the families to pay is one of the criteria for admission.

Today there are 22 such hospitals throughout North America.

The movement began in 1919 with a vision by Imperial Potentate-elect Freeland Kendrick of Lu Lu Temple in Philadelphia. He traveled more than 150,000 miles visiting temples across the country promoting the idea. He challenged each Shriner to contribute $2 per year to the cause.

A moving spontaneous address by Shriner Forrest Adair of Atlanta gave the movement its final impetus at the Imperial Session in Portland, Oregon, in 1921. Adair told the conventioneers that he would personally reimburse the $2 to any Shriner who subsequently objected to the assessment.

The movement was unanimously adopted — and no Shriner ever petitioned to get his $2 refunded.

This year, Shriners will spend $1.7 million per day operating the hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The hospitals not only treat thousands of children, they provide cutting edge research for treatment of burns and crippling effects of orthopedic and neurological defects. They also are foremost in this hemisphere in the training of medical specialists for that field.

Not only when they are entertaining us at parades or dishing out platters of fresh fried fish, but every day of the year the men wearing the red fez deserve a tip of the hat and a round of applause and appreciation from all of us.

Published in Editorials on August 2, 2005 10:06 AM