Shriners Children's Hospitals an Inside Look by Ben Boothe, as Member Board of Governors

One of the delightful experiences I have enjoyed over the past few years has been serving as a member of the Board of Governors for the Shriners Children's Hospital, representing the State of New Mexico.  The Shriners have 22 hospitals nationwide, and we treat 92,000 children a year, for free. It is called the world's largest charity, and I cannot confirm that, but I do believe it to be one of the most successful charities in the nation.

Our board consists of a group of men, all members of the Freemasons and Shriners of the United States. Most of the men on this board have distinguished themselves for service to kids while demonstrating successful business careers. Boardmembers serve without salary, and part of our goal is to review policy, make recommendations and assure that the $8.2 billion trust fund is utilized for treatment of kids and keeping our hospitals running efficiently. 

This board is made up of men considered "conservative" culturally and socially, yet they are progressive when it comes to helping kids.  I have been inspired and delighted to work with the board members and participate as we devote time and energy to our hospitals for children. We have kids with medical issues coming to us from all over the world, often with medical needs that their parents or nations cannot provide. We have helped children from the Middle East, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and of course coast to coast in the USA.  I have joined in with delight to see this group of fellow board members say: "We do not care about the politics or religious issues, we simply devote our hospitals to helping children."  

Since I have been on the Board of Governors, I have never seen this board reject a child who has a need. In our New Mexico clinic we are treating over 1,000 kids a month.   My wife and I were invited to do a TV commercial for the hospitals, which was produced at no cost to the Shriners. I was thrilled, indeed proud, to see my wife stand tall and with her Persian accent inviting children, including sick or injured children from her homeland and around the nation with this phrase: "You can hear that I have an accent, because I, too, come from another land. Don't be afraid to call the Shriners if you need medical help. America has a song that kids like, and I will quote from it. 'Red and yellow , black and white' kids are all precious in his sight.'  If you know of a child in medical need, call a Shriner." 

That sums up the attitude of the Shriner Hospital board members and our wives. Red and yellow, black  or white, kids with blue hair, purple hair, black hair, blonde hair, or kids with Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, or athiest backgrounds, the board members say: "Shriners will find a way to pay for helping children in need even if we have to sell pancakes, do money raiser dinners or run circus projects, we will treat your kids with the best of care."  

One child who stands out in my mind is a little girl from an Islamic family in Afghanistan. She stepped on a land mine, which blew her leg and arm off and further seriously injured one side of her body, including half of her face.  Our Los Angeles Shriner hospital flew her and her parents to LA, and in a series of operations was able to do restorative plastic surgery and give her a beautiful repaired face, plus a new leg and arm.  In our rehabilitation therapy program, this beautiful little girl, learned how to use her new arm to paint, and her skills became so good that we took her to actors and celebrities in Beverly Hills who loved her work and started buying her paintings. She was able to bless her family with the proceeds from painting and now is helping finance and support her family with her new skills. My wife and I have a cherished framed piece of art hanging on the wall in our home, framed and created by that most special kind of person...a Shrine Kid, who can walk, laugh and play, and live a better life.

Our daughter has taken great joy in visiting with and working with Albuquerque Shriners and Shrine kids who have been treated by our hospitals.  The Shriners of New Mexico, hundreds of good and devoted men, along with their wives, have learned to love and admire her for her work with kids.  Last year, she organized and led a campaign to provide Christmas gifts to Shrine Kids in New Mexico. In doing so, she inspired others to participate in the project. 

Thus it was a "win win"  for her,  for the Shrine Kids and for those who helped in her project. She has been invited to take part in the youth groups of Masonic organizations of New Mexico because of her leadership initiatives. We are proud of her, because she is giving a bit of her life to help kids. What a blessing for her and for other kids.

So it is with the Shriners. They (We) try to do things to make the lives of kids better,  and love seems to grow. With all of the unhappiness and conflict in the world, the Shriners provide nothing but light and help to this world, and it is done for free.  It is not a group that is interested in political or religious conflicts, Shriners just try to help kids find help and light along the way.  Recently, a man from Syria told us that his son, who had lost a hand when he picked up a hand grenade, was disturbed and depressed. Then his family heard that there was a group of men in the USA who had hospitals and who could help. Shriners flew that boy to the USA and rebuilt his hand. We met that boy, who is now healed. He is an exceptional teenager, well balanced and happy. Yes, he is another "Shrine Kid" who has been rescued and blessed.

Let me give you a personal story. One of my grandsons was born with a club foot. He also had other medical issues. When his medical bills went over $150,000, guess what happened. His medical insurance ran out, and the Masons through our Scottish Rite hospitals stepped in and took over his treatment at no charge, which is our way. That boy is now running, playing and has a normal life thanks in part to loving parents and in part to the work of our Masonic bodies. My wife and I were privileged to participate in the groundbreaking for a new $75 million kids' hospital the Shriners are building in Pasadena, California.

Guess who were invited and got to participate?  Kids!  In fact, the entire program was managed by young people who have learned what it means to serve and to be served by good people. We try to put the kids up front and teach them leadership skills.

When you see those Shriner, or Mason or Scottish Rite men in parades, with their wives and sometimes their kids, holding car washes or pancake sales, support their work.  They are truly impacting lives of children in need and don't want anything in return, except perhaps the sight of a kid walking or a greatful smile from parents along the way.

There is something about being positive and helping kids. Remember that story about the club foot?  I was pleased to recently see my son Ethan Boothe featured in a photo in the LA Times with my two grandkids, teaching them to promote peace and that "ALL LIVES MATTER,"  and saying that we should learn the ways of peace and mutual respect for humanity.  Shriners would agree with that, with a special message: "We focus on kids, they are the future."