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The Shrine of North America is known for its colorful parades, circuses and clowns. But there is also a serious side to this international fraternity of approximately 500,000 men belonging to 191 Shrine Temples, or chapters, throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama.

Every Shriner is first a Mason; however, in many parts of North America, Masonry does not solicit members. In these areas, no one is asked to join. A man must seek admission of his own free will. A man is a fully accepted "Craft Lodge" Mason after he has received the first three degrees, known as Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. After that, he may belong to many other organizations which have their roots in Masonry and which have Craft Lodge Masonry as a prerequisite, eg: Scottish Rite, York Rite and the Shrine.

The Shrine was founded in 1872 by a group of 13 men belonging to the Masonic Order. It was originally established to provide fun and fellowship for its members. But as the organization grew, its members decided to dedicate their efforts to helping others by establishing an official Shrine philanthropy a network of specialized hospitals that have provided the best leading edge expert medical care to children.

For 75 years, the Shrine has operated this network of specialized hospitals that treat children with orthopaedic problems, burns and spinal cord injuries, up to their 18th birthday, totally free of charge.

Since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922, the Shrine has supported what has come to be known as the "World's Greatest Philanthropy." The Shrine and its 22 hospitals, while maintaining separate legal and financial identities, are linked through the Shrine's continuing support of Shriners Hospitals.

There are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children 18 orthopaedic hospitals, three burn hospitals, and one hospital that provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care. These hospitals have cured or substantially helped more than 700,000 children at no cost to parent or child since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922.

Surgical techniques pioneered and developed in Shriners Hospitals have become standard in the orthopaedic world. Thousands of children have been fitted with arm and leg braces and artificial limbs, most of them made in special labs in the hospitals by expert technicians.

Since the Shriners opened their burn hospitals in the 1960s, a burned child's chance of survival has more than doubled. They have saved children burned over 90 percent of their bodies. The techniques they have pioneered to prevent the crippling effects of severe burns have made a normal life possible for thousands of burn victims.

Most importantly, perhaps, the establishment of the burn Shriners Hospitals has alerted the entire medical world to this special need which has, in turn, led to the establishment of non-Shrine burn centers throughout North America.

During the 1980s, Shriners Hospitals initiated a number of new programs in their efforts to continue providing high-quality pediatric orthopaedic and burn care. One of the most significant was the 1980 opening of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation unit at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia the first spinal cord injury unit in the United States designed specifically for children and teenagers who suffer from these injuries.

By 1984, two additional spinal cord injury units were operating in the Shriners Hospitals in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco Hospital, including the SCI unit, was relocated to the newest Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, Calif.

At the Shrine's SCI units, children receive long-term rehabilitative care and physical and occupational therapy to help them relearn the basic skills of everyday life. Counseling sessions help patients learn to cope with the emotional aspects of their injury and help them lead fulfilling lives by emphasizing the abilities they still have. Patients may enter an SCI unit apprehensive about the future, but after months of encouragement and support, they often leave with a sense of hope and optimism.

Most Shrine Temples sponsor fund-raising events to provide funds for Shriners Hospitals. In one calendar year there can be nearly 500 of these events, which range from the East/West Shrine Game and other football games to horse shows, circuses, hospital paper sales, and miscellaneous sports and social events.

The best known symbol of Shrinedom is the distinctive red fez that Shriners wear at official functions. Because Shriners are men who enjoy life, fun is a large part of the Shrine and the activities that help support the Shrine's philanthropy. Most Shrine Temples sponsor Shrine Clubs and special units, such as the motor corps, band or clown units and many other units of interest. They share in the camaraderie, deep friendships and good fellowship that are all part of being a Shriner.

The Premiere Fraternal Organization for men of good character, Shriners are committed to:

  • providing attractive, quality programs and services for its members, their families and friends in a spirit of fun, fellowship and social camaraderie
  • Fostering self improvement through leadership, education, the perpetuation of moral values and community involvement.
  • Serving mankind through the resources of its great philanthropy, the Shriners Hospitals for Children

If you know a child whom Shriners Hospitals might be able to help, please call toll-free at 1-800-237-5055 (in the U.S.) or 1-800-361-7256 (in Canada).

Application for membership in the Shrine is open to members in good standing in any recognized Craft Lodge who are Master Masons. Continued membership in a Craft Lodge is required to maintain good standing in the Shrine.

For more detailed information about The Shriners of North America, please click on

Rameses Shriners - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Shriners International

Shriners Hospital
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