Road warriors: OKC Shriners shuttle sick children to Shriner Hospitals all across the nation
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Their days often begin very early and many of the volunteer drivers have racked up as many miles as a professional truck driver, but the India Shriners of Oklahoma City don’t get tired of the road.
It’s their mission that’s driving them forward. The local Shriners Transportation Unit is making sure kids from all across Oklahoma get to their medical appointments and hospital stays at one of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“This is a labor of love for us,” said Gene McKelvey, administrator for the Oklahoma City India Shriners.
In a unique relationship, the Shriners and Shriners Hospitals are deeply connected. The Shriners act as a liaison between the family and the hospital, sponsor every patient at Shriners Hospitals, transport young patients and spread good cheer.
Traveling in teams, the India Shrine transportation unit of volunteer drivers commandeer one of the organization’s nine vans that are large enough for a child and a parent or other family members, and often the medical gear.
“Some days we will have one van going out with one child and one parents. Then on other days we might have three vans going out jammed full, but our Shriners are prepared for whatever they need to do and whatever physical limitations that the patients may need assistance with,” McKelvey said.
The trips begin at the Oklahoma City temple in north Oklahoma City, when volunteer drivers leave early to pick up the patient and take them to the medical facility in time for the child's appointment. Sometimes this is a short trip, but the teams often take kids to Louisiana, south Texas or one of the 22 medical Shriners Hospitals across the country.
Bonds are formed on the road.
“The transportation unit has meaningful relationship with our kids,” said McKelvey. “The units have two purposes. First, we provide drivers for local kids and their families en route to the hospital. Secondly, we are supporters and cheerleaders for the families, help them through an experience that is often already difficult and provide everybody with adequate transportation, housing, and Shriners' compassion to assure the best possible experience.”
“We have helped thousands of children over the years and it never gets tiring,” he added.
There is no charge to the patient or their families for this service. Families that may be in need of assistance should contact the Oklahoma City India Shriners at 405-942-3045.
“It is our mission as Shriners to make sure every child receives the assistance and care needed,” he said.
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 ›
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 ›