When you hear the word Shriners, a few images come to mind - funny little hats, clowns, tiny cars, parades, circuses, and happy kids. But who are the Shriners? Shriners International, formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, is a Masonic society founded in 1872 and headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Shriners are members of the Masonic fraternity and adhere to the principles of Freemasonry - a belief in a supreme being, brotherly love, relief, and truth. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life.
Shriners International consists of nearly 200 temples (chapters) in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. Topeka is blessed to be home to one of five temples (chapters) in Kansas. The Arab Shrine Temple of Topeka (Temple No. 157) is located at 1305 S. Kansas Avenue. Chartered in 1932, the Arab Shrine Temple of Topeka is headed by 2022 potentate, Illustrious Sir Jeff Neal. He and the other members of the leadership team provide guidance to the over 700 nobles of the Arab Shrine.
Over the years, the organization has added an element of fun and philanthropy. Shriners International supports Shriners Hospitals for Children, a health system of over 20 facilities located across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Shriners Hospitals for Children were founded in 1922 with the goal of providing expert medical care for children while placing no financial burden on the patients or their families. It is one of the largest pediatric sub-specialty healthcare systems in the world. They treat children for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lips and palates.
The hospital staff is dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, conducting innovative research, and offering outstanding educational programs for medical professionals. In 2020 alone they spent $37 million on research.
They provide advanced care in a family-centered environment that is focused on maximizing a child’s quality of life, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. Shriners Hospitals helped over 10,000 patients last year in St. Louis alone.
Beckett Holthaus is a child from Seneca, KS who was helped by Shriners Hospital. Before he was born, Beckett was diagnosed with Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency (PFFD), a rare and complex birth defect in which his right leg was smaller than his left and was missing a lower leg bone. “We knew from an ultrasound at 4½ months that he would need help,” his mom, Jenn Holthaus shared. “It’s been a fantastic experience. We attended a Shriners Hospital day experience before he was even born and it was incredible. I didn’t feel alone anymore.”
Beckett had to have leg amputation surgery at one year old. “I knew he would get the highest level of care. I can’t tell you what a relief it was for me and my husband to know we had a whole community who would embrace us and our child when we needed it most.” Today, Beckett is a healthy, rambunctious five-year-old thanks to the excellent care he received from Shriners Hospital.
The Topeka Arab Shrine chapter participates in over 30 parades annually. “We have so much fun doing it,” shared Rick Smith, Arab Shrine Public Relations Director. “There’s nothing more heartwarming than being out somewhere, like a parade, and having someone’s grandma come up and tell a story about how her grandchild was a patient at a Shriners hospital and thank you so much for being a Shriner. It’s really rewarding.”
2022 happens to be a banner year for the Shriners. The organization is celebrating three separate anniversaries: 150 years for Shriners International (1872), 100 years for Shriners Hospitals (1922 Shreveport), and 90 years for Arab Shrine (1932 Topeka).
To celebrate, there are several upcoming Shriners events that you won’t want to miss: