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Local Shriners provide care for sick kids at Shriners’ hospitals across the country, offer good cheer

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The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.
The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.

When the Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor a local child to receive care at one of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, they not only provide hope and expert medical treatment to the families, but in many cases lifelong friendships are forged.

“The one I remember the most is a little girl that was set on fire. The mother was holding the little girl. The mother’s boyfriends dumped gasoline on them and lit them on fire. It happened out on Lake Thunderbird,” Dale McWaters, Past Potentate of the Oklahoma City India Shriners.

 “She was just a baby. She’s in college now,” he said.

The child’s burns were treated by the burn experts at one of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.

“When it comes to burns nobody is better than the Shriners,” added Gene McKelvey, administrator of the Oklahoma City Temple Shriners. In fact, many of the treatments used as standard practice in burn centers across the country today originated within Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Members of the OKC India Shriners said getting children to smile is the "pay" for their volunteer work. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.
Members of the OKC India Shriners said getting children to smile is the "pay" for their volunteer work. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is changing lives every day through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education. The hospitals provide advanced care for children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, and the local chapters support and sponsor local children making it possible for these children to receive treatment.

McKelvey, holding up a before and after picture of an infant who received cleft lip surgery through the Shriners, explains that the volunteer work is incredibly rewarding.

“She’s one of the reasons I get up every morning and come to work,” he said.

The local chapter as well as the Shriners International support Shriners Hospitals for Children, a health system of 22 locations nationwide. The hospitals are committed to providing the best care for children in our specialty areas of orthopedics, burn care, spinal cord injury, and cleft lip and palate, regardless of a family’s ability to pay, McKelvey said.

 “When you have a burned child, or a spine injury it can completely destroy a family,” McKelvey said.

Members of the local chapter also help shuttle children from and to the hospitals in one of their nine vans, he added. The Oklahoma City temple located on N.W. 36th Street also houses a telemedicine facility where local families can consult with experts at the hospital locations out of state.

Apart from being pioneers in the medical field and having formed partnerships with major universities, and offering training for surgeons from across the world, the hospitals’ education mission doesn’t end with the care providers. Kids who are treated receive schooling or tutoring so as to not fall behind in their studies.

“Education continues while they are in the hospital,” McKelvey said. “Our kids are the main focus of everything we do,” McKelvey said.

The Shriners Hospitals are the official charity of the organization. The idea to establish hospitals for children was introduced by Freeland Kendrick in Philadelphia around 1919 after he visited a Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta. This visit made the man aware of the overwhelming need to care for children with orthopedic disorders.

During his tenure as Imperial Potentate in 1919 and 1920, Kendrick traveled more than 150,000 miles, visiting a majority of temples across the country and campaigning for an official philanthropy to be established.

By June 1922 the cornerstone had been laid for the first Shriners Hospitals for Children in Shreveport, La. The first patient to be admitted in 1922 was a little girl with a clubfoot, who had learned to walk on the top of her foot rather than the sole.

The service-oriented organization needed a purpose, and it was decided to focus on the health and welfare of children.

As the number of temples and members grew, so too did the hospitals. By 1958 the hospitals’ endowment was valued at $125 million. Today there are 22 hospitals, including three nationally-renowned burn centers, McKelvey said.

“Working with children can be the most wonderful thing in the world or break your heart,” McKelvey said.

However, all the hard work is worth it, McKelvey said. Connections quickly flourish between the men in the funny hats and the children.

“If the guys have one of the funny hats on, they are the kids’ Superman,” McKelvey said.

Click here to learn more about Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Related Photos
The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.

The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d5fec840f358902cc460c2ad3a6e45e8.jpg" alt="Photo - The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners." title="The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners."><figcaption>The Oklahoma City India Shriners sponsor the medical care for children at Shriners Hospital's all across the country and bring joy to the kids. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5a45cbec3387c59964fc4444567bb9b2.jpg" alt="Photo - Members of the OKC India Shriners said getting children to smile is the "pay" for their volunteer work. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners." title="Members of the OKC India Shriners said getting children to smile is the "pay" for their volunteer work. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners."><figcaption>Members of the OKC India Shriners said getting children to smile is the "pay" for their volunteer work. Photo provided by OKC India Shriners.</figcaption></figure>
Michaela Marx Wheatley

Michaela Marx Wheatley is an award-winning writer and journalist who has written for newspapers and magazines in both the U.S. and Germany. These days she is a copywriter at BigWing Interactive and the editor of BrandInsight, The Oklahoman’s and... Read more ›

India Shrine of OKC

Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 chapters in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life. The Shriners also supports Shriners Hospitals for Children®, a health system of 22 locations, and are well-known for the annual Shrine Circus. The Oklahoma City temple was established in the 1990s and has since supported countless children in need by supporting the hospitals and by providing transportation from and to the hospitals, or helped put a smile on local kids’ faces at the circus. Read more ›

NewsOK BrandInsight provides a place for local organizations and companies to connect directly with the NewsOK audience by publishing articles of interest on the NewsOK digital platforms in a special section.
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