12/01/08 — For their children: Shriners share holiday spirit

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For their children: Shriners share holiday spirit

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 1, 2008 1:46 PM

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Madison Alpers, 8, gets a hug from Santa Claus during the Wayne County Shrine Club's annual Christmas party Sunday. Madison is one of more than 600 children in the state who receives free medical care at the Shriners' charity hospitals for children with burns or orthopedic disabilities.

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Harley Marie Haley plays with her grandfather Art Green's fez during the party for local Shriners Hospitals patients. The annual event gives Shriners the chance to meet some of the thousands of children they help every year. Many of the club members bring their families to the annual event.

The annual Shriners and Shrinettes Christmas party Sunday night at the Wayne County Shrine Club gave the hard-working members a chance to meet the children they help, and to spread some holiday cheer.

Eight children, all patients at the Greenville, S.C., Shriners' Hospital for Children, and their families were the guests of honor at the dinner.

The Shriners and Shrinettes' families attended the party to celebrate the season, to have a good time and to show their support.

"I'm biased, but I think they do an awesome job," said Christy Straughan-Haley.

Both of Mrs. Straughan-Haley's parents, Arthur Green and Cathy Green, are involved with the organization and she helps support the fundraising efforts every year.

"I think they get a lot of joy out of doing this," she said.

Her own children have grown up alongside some of the children the Shriners assist, Mrs. Straughan-Haley said.

One of those children is Madison Alpers, 8, born with a condition called bilateral hip dysplasia. She visits the Shriners' hospital every year so doctors can evaluate her condition and monitor her progress, said her mother, Wanda Johnson.

"They treat her like a really special person. They hold her hand," she said. "No matter how many children they have there, they treat them all special."

The evening was even more exciting for the children as Santa Claus made an early visit to hand out presents.

Elizabeth Dubrowsky, 4, was a little reluctant to demonstrate her singing ability for Saint Nick.

"I want you to sing with me," she insisted.

Children as young as 12 days and as old as 18 years took a turn on Santa's lap to tell him their Christmas wishes and to receive a gift.

"This is a lot of fun for the Shriners," said George Raecher, past president and current public relations officer for the Wayne County Shriners.

Most of the members never get to see the children they work so hard to help, he said.

The Christmas party gave them a chance to see the bright-eyed results of their charitable efforts.

"You get to see the advancements they (the children) have made over the years," Raecher said. "It's really heartwarming."

Besides enjoying a chicken dinner donated by Case Farms, the children also got to make Christmas ornaments and to pick out a teddy bear from the pile donated by the Order of the Eastern Star.

The Shriners' charity hospitals have treated free of charge more than 800,000 children with burns, orthopedic conditions or spinal cord injuries. The North Carolina Shriners provide care for more than 600 kids across the state, and the Roadrunners Unit works to transport children to and from the hospitals.

Of the Shriners' $721 million operating budget in 2007, 93 percent went directly toward funding medical research and patient care at Shriners' Hospitals for Children.