PITTSBURG — A Shriner was eating at McDonalds and noticed a little girl with a limp. approaching her parents he said, “We can fix that.”
And they did.
Jacey Brown, of Fort Scott, was two years old when that Shriner approached her mother, Angie Brown.
Jacey’s mother shared with him that her limp was caused by cerebral palsy which affects movement, muscle tone and posture.
“I said she has cerebral palsy and then he said, ‘We can fix that’ and he did,” Angie said. “I think she has benefited greatly from everything they’ve done.”
The Shriner helped the family connect with a Shriners Hospital for Children.
“We couldn’t ask for better care,” Angie said.
Jacey’s father, Joe, agreed.
“They can do things no other hospital can do,” he said. “They are on the leading edge of everything.
“The surgeries Jacey had help her do little things you or I would take for granted. It’s been a great deal all the way around.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a nonprofit organization which help children with burns, orthopaedics, spinal injuries and cleft lip and palate, among other things. The hospital accepts any child with those conditions regardless of their ability to pay, Senior Director of Public Relations for the Central Region Tammy M. Robbins said.
Jacey Brown, now 15, is a Shriners Hospital Patient Ambassador.
After undergoing multiple surgeries throughout her childhood, Jacey said she wanted to become an ambassador to share her experience.
She even has a favorite occupational therapist, Ellen, at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis.
“They know you, and I have a favorite OT,” she said. “I’ve seen her since I was two.”
Another Patient Ambassador, Cierra Brumback, of Girard, has been going to the Shriners Hospital since 2010 after a gunshot wound to her a leg.
She was accepted at the hospital because her doctor happened to work both at Mercy Hospital where she first was admitted and Shriners Hospital.
“When you go to St. Louis, you only see smiling faces from every child,” Cierra said. “Then you are on a name to name basis with everyone, which is pretty cool because you don’t get that at most hospitals.”
Cierra was later invited to go to the Shrine Bowl in Pittsburg a few years ago, the next year the Shrine in Girard asked if she would like to join the Masonic Band, which plays during halftime and the parades.
“I think the best thing about coming to Shrine Bowl is being part of the band and the ‘Shriners Hospital Experience,’ because you can show everyone that you can do what they are doing, even on a large scale like this,” she said.
When called to attention in band, the musicians yell “For the Kids.”
“It’s a very loud and chilling experience,” Cierra said.
As patient ambassadors Cierra and Jacey represent the patient experience through speeches, and events such as the Shriners Hospital Experience.
At “Shriners Hospital Experience,” children who once were, or currently are, patients at the Shriners Hospital, give the Shrine Bowl football players, band and cheerleaders a “hands-on” experience through eight different stations, which includes a demonstration on Pediatric and Orthotics and Prosthetics, a station on surgery, outpatient clinic information, “what it’s like for the kids,’ Robbins said.
For example, at one station Patient Ambassador Madelyn Hubbs of St. Louis, showed her group how she can play the ukulele, and she also challenged people to put a pillowcase on a pillow with one arm and at another Patient Ambassador Kayly Schoming, of Salina, demonstrated how to be independent while in a wheelchair.
Jacey and Cierra’s booth was covered with various prosthetics and braces, some of which were their own.
The girls challenged the football players, band and cheerleaders to walk on planks controlled by ropes, to simulate what it is like to not have a lot of feeling at the end of limbs.
History of Shriners Hospital for Children
The Shriners Hospital for Children serve thousands of children who have experienced burn trauma, orthopaedics, spinal injuries, cleft lip and palate.
It all started when a group of Masons gathered together after seeing a child who needed help. The child needed care it’s family could not afford.
“They formed a group called the Shriners and they just started donating out of their pockets and paid for this kid to go to the hospital,” Mirza Shriner Stan Jayhay said. “They said, ‘if we can do it for one’ we can do it for another — so they did.”
The Masons then realized, they needed a place for the children to receive the care.
“The first hospital was built in Shreveport, Louisiana,” he said. “Their goal was to help every child that needed help, that was their purpose and their tradition continued on.”
He said the patients have to learn new ways to do things others may take for granted, such as putting a on pillow case, kicking a ball or going grocery shopping.
“We want to help those less fortunate children that can’t do what we do,” Jayhay said. “Our goal is to help every child and make them the best they possibly can be.”
Today the hospital serves several thousand children across the United States and beyond.
“If their insurance didn’t cover procedure, or their deductible is really high, we’re not going to say ‘sorry unless you give us $5,000 we’re not going to do your kid’s surgery’ — we just do the surgery,” Senior Director of Public Relations for the Central Region Tammy M. Robbins said. “Then we figure out later how it gets paid.”
To help serve the children the Shriners raise money through events such as Saturday’s 2018 Shrine Bowl.
They also buy and maintain a fleet of vans to transport children to their appointments in at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital.
“They volunteer their time, pay for the gas, the hotel room and the food to get families to the appointments to the hospital,” Robbins said. “They are very dedicated to these hospitals.”
Jacey’s parents, Angie and Joe Brown agreed.
“The Pittsburg Shriners have been great, at any given time we can give them a call and they will either drive us or get us a room, make arrangements,” Angie said. “They’re just the best people.”
Shrine Bowl information
Shrine Bowl is an fundraising event for Shriners Hospital for Children by Kansas Shriners. The Shriners host the all-star football game annually.
“This game’s raised — over 40 years — has raised well over $2 million for Shriners Hospitals,” Senior Director of Public Relations for the Central Region Tammy M. Robbins said.
According to Pittsburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Devin Gorman, Pittsburg will play host to over 500 game participants, as well as their friends, families, and supporters and Shriners from across the State of Kansas, and the game and its events bring in an estimated $1.7 to $2.5 million in revenue to the host community.
Robbins said the Shrine Bowl Board wants the football players to understand why they are playing the game.
“That’s why we bring patients here to do these eight different stations and give them a hands-on experience so they can meet them directly,” she said.
Football players from the east to west of Kansas are nominated by their coaches for their good standing in school and good character.
Shrine Bowl board and staff collect sponsors for the football games, ticket sales, sales of swag, concessions and more. The proceeds go to help children receive care at Shriners Hospitals.
This year’s game will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Carnie Smith Stadium. Tickets and additional information are available at www.kansasshrinebowl.com or by calling 800-530-5524.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.