- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

Raoul L. Frevel, a member of Shriners International, recently recalled a young man getting up at a banquet to say - “I’d like to thank you for my life.”

Mr. Frevel had already heard many stories about the philanthropic group helping people, having served more than 865,000 children since its inception in 1872. But this one, he said, really caught his attention because the young man added that he’d never been a Shriners patient.

The young man said his father in 1962 had been brought to a Shriners Hospital for Children with burns over 60 percent of his body - and Mr. Frevel then understood that had the Shriners not helped his father, the young man would not have been born.

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The organization is continuing with its efforts Saturday by holding a free screening clinic at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 4001 Yuma St. NW, to identify children with neuromuscular or bone conditions. The event is open to the public.

The group, part of the Freemasons’ organization, was founded on the principle of brotherly love, relief and truth and calls itself “the oldest fraternity in the world.” It has about 375,000 members.

The first Shriners hospital opened in Shreveport, La., in 1922. Today, there are 22 throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The hospitals care for patients 18 and younger and specialize in pediatric care, research and teaching.

“We have top, qualified physicians and surgeons on the staff that are nationally and worldwide known in their area of expertise,” said Anthony Murray, a local Shriner.

Mike Elliano, an accountant with the Rockville-based Allen L. Gordon firm, is helping with the event Saturday and hopes it will encourage other hospitals and doctors to get involved “so people who aren’t privileged can have a place to go and get care.”

He said victims of severe burns usually end up owing more than $1 million, which is why he supports groups such as Shriners International, which give burn victims free care.

The group receives most of its money from members, endowments and wills. They do not take insurance money.

On the group being more known for its parades and clowns, Mr. Murray said, “That’s our fun side,” while the pediatric work is the “serious side.”

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