When most of us hear the word “hospital,” the first adjective that comes to mind is probably not “cheery.” And yet, Salt Lake City’s Shriners Hospital for Children fits that description. The color-studded building sits atop a hill surrounded by an expansive green lawn. As you walk in the front door, you’re greeted by life-sized renditions of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Shriners Hospitals have a long, storied history. Conceived at a 1920 meeting of Shriners International Fraternity, their mission is to provide orthopaedic care to children 18 and under regardless of their ability to pay. From the first Shriners Hospital, founded in 1922 in Shreveport, LA, the network has grown to 22 hospitals in North America. Salt Lake’s hospital was founded in 1925.
“All care is based on a doctor’s decision as to what is medically the best treatment,” says Development Director M.J. Miller. “They don’t know if a child has insurance. If a type of care is important to the child, Shriners Hospital will make sure the child gets it.”
Muscles, bones and joints are Shriners Hospitals’ area of specialty. The staff’s six full-time orthopaedic doctors, as well as its staff of part-time specialists, treat structural issues due to injuries, genetics and complex conditions such as muscular dystrophy. Shriners Hospital has three operating rooms. Outside the door to the surgery area, Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. see patients off as they enter the surgery sanctum.
Shriners also houses a complete wheelchair-building and adjusting facility. The hospital receives lots of donated wheelchairs. Their tech wizards refurbish them; customize them for balance, size and tilt; and provide adjustments every six months as children grow. In addition, Shriners custom builds prosthetic limbs, allowing patients to decorate them in colorful, artistic ways.
Shriners’s Salt Lake facility serves the Intermountain West and Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. Shriners Fraternity provides transportation funding for those who can’t afford travel expenses, and the hospital itself houses four hotel rooms for those who can’t swing outside accommodations.
Letting Kids Be Kids
Shriners Hospital also has a bike program. Technicians fit custom bicycles, including balance bikes, which are like big tricycles, and bikes with hand pedals. Because insurance companies don’t cover this service, Shriners has a special fund that pays for these often-pricey bicycles.
“The whole philosophy is to let kids be kids as much as possible,” says M.J. Shriners also supports kids to be kids in the wilderness. The hospital sponsors wintertime ski camps and summertime river trips for teenaged patients with amputations. The camps are a way for teens to connect with other teens who share the same day-to-day issues. M.J. says that kids enjoy the camaraderie and often comment, “For the first time, I realize that I’m not alone.”
After 30 years in development, M.J. says her four years at Shriners are the best job she’s had—no question. “The kids have such an amazing attitude about life,” she says. “They inspire us all every day.”
From now through September 30th, a portion of your Hugger Mugger purchases will go to Shriners Hospital to support their valuable work. If you’d like to get involved further, consider joining them for their “Walk for Love” event on September 17th.