At Shriners Hospitals for Children—St. Louis, thousands of staff members and volunteers work to “bring patients’ childhood back to life.”
The pediatric hospital system’s private physicians from Washington University specialize in treating children with orthopedic conditions—regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. With support from these physicians, as well as 200 staff members, 100 volunteers and thousands of Shriners fraternity members, the hospital annually provides inpatient and outpatient services to more than 13,000 children from 35 states, as well as Central America through the World Pediatric Project. Shriners from 21 Midwest temples annually give $2 million through fundraisers, serve as board leadership and provide transportation to patients—even when those children live multiple states away.
“They generously give of their time and energy to provide transportation for our children,” hospital administrator John Gloss notes. “These are the children who go to college and stay in our community and make our town a great place to live.”
Worldwide, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals supported by more than 300,000 Shriners from 124 temples across the nation. The hospitals specialize in orthopedics, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, with cutting-edge medical research at each facility. The local hospital, which has treated 100,000 patients in its 90-year history, leads the nation in metabolic bone research. Since its inception, scientists at the Center for Metabolic Bone Disease and Molecular Research have discovered the genetic root of about 10 inherited bone diseases. “Through enzyme therapy and diet, they treat children and give them an opportunity for a much more productive childhood,” Gloss says. Last year, the hospital’s medical advancements earned it a spot in the Top 10 Pediatric Orthopedic Hospitals in America byU. S. News and World Report.
Among local children who have benefited from treatment at Shriners, a girl with severe scoliosis now has a straight back, a boy with a clubfoot now walks without a limp and a girl missing an arm has received a prosthetic limb and therapy support from Shriners Hand Camp—one of only five in the country—and can now focus on her favorite activities such as riding horses and swimming. And after regaining confidence at the camp through completing challenging activities, including climbing a 30-foot rock wall and making friends who share her upper-limb differences, the local 11-year-old decided to give back. So last Christmas, she and her younger brother chose to give instead of receive, collecting some 200 toys from family and friends. The children donated the toys, along with more than $2,500 of fundraising money they earned through neighborhood snack-stand sales, to Shriners Hand Camp. Another patient, a local 19-year-old who has been treated for a rare bone disease at Shriners since he was 6 months old, is grateful for not only the hospital’s cutting-edge medical research, but also its recreation therapy. The teen’s mother says, “They don’t just treat bones, but they take care of the whole child.”
Gloss says the love the hospital’s employees and Shriners have for each child makes a difference in patient treatment. “True healing takes something extra: love. It rebuilds a child’s confidence and helps them face their first day back at school after surgery or a tragic accident. And it helps us keep healing children until they’re grown up and taking care of themselves.” Gloss adds that he is proud to lead a hospital that is helping give brighter futures to children across the world. “Our staff and volunteers touch so many lives. I go home every day with joy in my heart.”
Volunteer: Carl Hall
Almost every day for the last 25 years, Carl Hall has dedicated his time to Shriners Hospitals for Children—St. Louis. “I’m 83…and the good feeling I get here is what keeps me alive,” he says.
Hall, a Greenville, Ill., native and military veteran, says he always knew he would return to his St. Louis roots and volunteer at Shriners Hospitals when he retired. The hospital has held a special place in his heart since it helped his uncle overcome a clubfoot in the 1920s.
In 1960, while serving with the U. S. military in Germany, Hall took the first step toward becoming a Shriner by joining the masons because he believed in the fraternity’s tenants of brotherly love, charity and truth. Today, he is a proud Shriner aiding the group’s local hospital, which specializes in treating children with orthopedic conditions— regardless of their ability to pay.
Over the years, Hall has become increasingly involved in the facility’s mission, from giving tours of the hospital in the late 1980s to currently serving on three boards, including becoming chairman of the outpatient committee. A typical volunteer shift for him consists of filing medical paperwork for nurses as about 90 patients come into the outpatient department each day.
On weekends, Hall helps at screening clinics to examine and, if necessary, bring patients into the hospital for treatment. Through the clinics, about 1,000 patients per month are referred for care at Shriners.
Hall recalls that building bonds with patients has been easy to do over the years. “There are children I have really liked from the beginning, and now some of them have brought their own kids here.” He adds that the special thing about the hospital is the love the Shriners have for the children—and how much that aids in their recovery. “It just gives you that uplifting feeling.”