By Amy Pearson

Become a Shriner

Shriners International started in New York as a fraternal organization of the Masonic Society in 1872. They built their first hospital in 1922 in an effort to assist during the polio epidemic. There are
now twenty-two hospitals across North America including one in Vancouver, BC and one in Mexico City. Treatment services available now are geared mostly towards orthopedic work including cleft lips and palates, spina bifida, sports injuries, and burns. Their closest hospital for kids who live in Montana is Spokane’s Shriners Children’s Hospital.

Mandy Brumwell’s fifteen-year-old son Grant was born with bilateral clubbed feet. When she realized that her son would require very specialized care, she contacted the Shriners Hospital in Spokane to see if they could help. Three weeks later they were walking through the hospital doors in Spokane, amazed by the welcoming and kid-friendly atmosphere. Over the years, they made multiple trips per year to the hospital for minor operations, checkups, and braces. After fourteen trips for surgeries over the span of three years (2019-2022), Grant was finally able to walk more comfortably. Mandy never received a bill from the hospital, and the local Shriners were able to provide travel and motel expenses for her trips to Spokane.

In addition to state-of-the-art care, Grant has gained friends and connections through his experience with Shriners Children’s Hospital. In 2018, when he served as the patient ambassador for the 72nd Annual Montana East-West Shrine Football Game fundraiser in Great Falls, his doctor from Spokane traveled all the way over to support Grant and attend the parade.
“I didn’t know a hospital could care so much about a patient,” Mandy Brumwell notes.

Where Does the Money Go?

So where does all the money from Shriner fundraisers go? The short answer is that it goes directly to the community, the hospital, and the kids. There is absolutely no charge for the hospital services provided to any of the patients treated at Shriner Hospitals. There are no criteria or qualifying bases that need to be met in order for a child to receive treatment; they simply must need the services that are provided at the associated hospital. If the Shriners Hospital cannot treat a particular child’s issue, they will assist to align care at another hospital.

“It’s not just a hospital,” Great Falls Shriner Brad Clark says. “It’s a support system. Due to the smaller number of patients a Shriner hospital has, there’s a greater possibility to grow strong interpersonal relationships.”

Clark’s father was also a Shriner and he says he knew from a young age that he would want to be involved. He was drawn to the service-related aspects of the organization, and the fun. Great Falls hosts the East-West Football Game every three years which is the longest running high school game in the country and the top fundraiser in 2022, donating an astounding $238,000 to Spokane’s Shriners Hospital. Great Falls also hosts the Shrine Circus, the Shrine Golf Tournament, and are recognized for their bagpipes, clowns, cars, and maroon and gold fez hats.

Want to Join?

The Shriner clubs in Montana are always looking for new members. You must be eighteen years old, male, and a member of the Masonic organization. While the Shriners are selective in their induction, there are many opportunities to put one’s talents to work for the organization. The best way to find out more is by contacting a local temple to talk with someone about what kind of task or interest area you might enjoy.

There are different options related to being a shriner – being a clown, driving a corvette, playing the bagpipes, being involved in music, carrying flags, or even being on horse patrol in some areas.

According to Clark, when it boils right down to it, the main criteria the Shriners are looking for in new members is a desire to help, and for kids to have the best life they can have.

How do you become a Shriner? To be one, ask one. For more information, call your nearest temple in Helena, Butte, or Billings.

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