The Board of Trustees of Shriners Hospitals for Children recently announced that it has approved the construction of a new hospital to replace the current facility at 2001 South Lindbergh in St. Louis.
The current facility which has been a haven for Midwest families facing the devastating circumstances surrounding a child afflicted with orthopedic problems is more than 40 years old. It has been well maintained, but lacks certain elements which impede the care of patients and does not meet current standards for today’s needs. The new hospital will be a state-of-the-art facility.
“We hope to have the hospital completed by 2009,” said John Smith, Illustrious Potentate of St. Louis. “The $85 million, 52-bed hospital will be built on the existing grounds which is in a great location and will work out very well.”
Smith was in Hannibal Wednesday, visiting with NEMO Shrine Club members and the media to spread the word about the Shriners and their philanthropy. “The visit is to promote the Shriners Hospital and let everyone know about all the good things the Shriners do,” he said.
“A no-cost evaluation clinic for children under 18 years old to find out if they are eligible for free, expert medical treatment is one of those good things,” said Smith. “We recently screened 32 children in the Hannibal area and have accepted 19 into the Shriners Hospital. This was the sixth year for the screening which has resulted in 120 children being admitted to the hospital.
“Another screening is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at Veterans Hospital in Columbia. This gives a family the chance to bring their children in who may have spinal cord or other orthopedic problems and determine if they can be treated at no charge.”
The St. Louis hospital treats children with many types of problems and defects, such as scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hand and back problems, missing limbs, cerebral palsy, neuromuscular disorders, club foot, rickets and congenital hip problems. Any child under 18, who has problems of the bones, joints or muscles is encouraged to visit the free clinic. Speech and language screenings are also offered through the Rite Care program, according to Smith.
Since its founding in 1872, the Shrinedom has always been involved in charitable activities, and in 1919, vowed to establish a Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. The first facility opened in Shreveport, La., in 1922, and by the end of that decade, 13 more were in operation. In the 1960s, burn hospitals were opened and in the 1980s, three Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation centers opened. Presently there are 22 Shrine hospitals in North America, three dedicated to burn treatments and 19 to orthopedic problems.
Opening in 1924, the St. Louis facility serves families in a nine-state area, and is not limited to those states, as it treats children from all over the globe.
“There is never a charge to anyone for any service or medical treatment,” said Smith. “We’re very proud to have this facility in St. Louis which has the finest in research and medical excellence. Room and board for the families and transportation is also provided free of charge. Recently one of our van drivers from Wichita, Kan., reached a 2,000,000-mile mark. We roughly spend 1.7 million dollars a day treating children at no charge.”
With an annual budget of $625 million, much funding is needed for hospital operation. Costs are covered with gifts, bequests, endowment funds, fund-raisers and the annual assessment paid by every Shriner.
“One of the best ways to get involved is to become a Mason and then a Shriner and becoming a part of the greatest philanthropy in the world,” said Smith. “Participating in the parades and all the events. The NEMO Shrine Club located in Hannibal is very active.”
A fish fry will take place on Friday and Saturday, July 15 and 16, at the Y-men’s pavilion in downtown Hannibal to raise funds for the hospital. There will also be a July 4 parade and other civic parades throughout the area during the year with Shriners driving their “funny” little cars and wearing the big red hats (fezzes).
A major motorcycle rally at the St. Louis Moolah Shrine Center on July 17, will bring together approximately 2,500 motorcyclists from all over the country including Hannibal.
The Moolah Shrine Circus is a “Circus with a Purpose.” This year’s circus will feature gravity defying trapeze artists, the crazy antics of the Shrine Circus clowns and three rings jam-packed with continuous acts including Siberian and Bengal tigers, Arabian Stallions and elephants. This year people can get up close and personal with the elephants and ponies where children and adults can ride them.
“We will kick off circus week with a downtown parade in St. Charles with the circus starting on the following weekend,” said Smith. “There will be eight shows. The Royal Hanneford Circus will be performing, which is one of the largest in the country. We would love to see everybody come. It’s great for the whole family.”
The circus will be coming to the Family Arena in St. Charles on April 28 to May 1. This is the 63rd year in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Purchasing a special Shrine license plate for $25 is another way to support the St. Louis Shriner hospital. Waiting is not required until license plate renewal date. Orders may be placed any time and are available for cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Additional information about the circus can be found online at www.familyarena.com or by calling the Moolah Shrine center at (314) 878-6301. Online information about the organization or hospital can be found at www.moolah.org or www.shrinershqs.org