All yearlong, local shriners raise funds for St. Louis hospital patients.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- When parade-goers see eight cherry-red, mini Indy cars and a mini-tow truck coming down the parade route, it's evident the men of Jefferson City's Capital City Shrine Club are enjoying a second childhood with their grown-up toys.
What might not be so obvious, however, is their mission to help provide some of the most advanced medical care available to children who have orthopedic problems, spinal cord injuries, deformities of the upper lip and mouth as well as children who have been badly burned.
With cars to keep parade-ready and fancy driving formation to learn for parades and competitions, Jefferson City Shriners say tooting their own horn just isn't their thing.
"The public isn't aware," Shriner Ben Dennison says of the club's medical philanthropy. "We don't devote a lot of time to publicity about ourselves. We try to let our deeds speak for themselves."
But for families like Tammy and Curtis Raithel of Brazito and their 3-year-old daughter, Ann, the Shriners' actions have said it all.
By the time she learned to walk, Ann had a limp, and as she toddled around, she would fall down and trip a lot, Tammy said.
After making the diagnosis, Ann's doctor recommended the Raithels try to get Ann into St. Louis Shriners Hospital, an 80-bed orthopedic hospital and one of 22 Shriners Hospitals nationwide.
"He said they're the best for the job," Curtis said. "A dislocated hip is like a common cold for other doctors."
Ann was admitted and had surgery on her left hip in March 2004.
She was in traction for a few weeks, something Tammy notes isn't easy for a 2-year-old, and in a cast for six weeks altogether. But she acclimated.
"She didn't slow down," Curtis said. "By the end of the six weeks, she had the knee of the cast worn down."
Ann wore a special brace to keep her legs apart and her hip in the right direction and used a special car seat, both manufactured by Shriners Hospitals.
For now, Anne has a plate and screws in her left leg, but you wouldn't think so, the way she runs, plays and climbs gates and fences, her parents say.
Still, the Raithels say their contact with the hospital will continue, since Ann's left leg with the corrected hip has grown longer than the right leg. In December, the hospital fitted Ann with a special lift for her shoe to balance things out, at least temporarily.
While it may be hard to make the connection between the little girl and the group of men who proudly sport the Fez, it was their efforts that originally provided Ann the access to the care that enables her to now run and play, all at no cost to her family.
After Ann's diagnosis, Curtis called on Shriner Bill Mosley, who he knew from Boy Scouts, and Mosley provided the authorization necessary for Ann to be considered as a possible patient at the hospital in St. Louis.
All year long, local Shriners host small fund-raising events and contribute the profits to the St. Louis Moolah Shrine Temple, which routes local funds to hospitals.
In addition to providing financial support, Shriners write letters of referral when a local child's physician recommends specialty treatment available at one of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Sometimes local Shriners with pilots licenses donate their time and resources to personally transport Missouri children to other hospitals.
In October, the Shriners will work with an orthopedic physician to host a screening clinic for children with orthopedic problems who may benefit from care at a Shriners Hospital.
So it's not that Shriners don't advertise the club and its appeal to children, they just do it in their own way. In Jefferson City, Shriners have a passion for mini Indy cars, but they also have a passion for children.
"It all comes back to the motto -- we ride so that they may walk," Mosley said. "We put ourselves out there in the public to raise awareness."