Thousands To Attend Texas Shrine Convention
By REBECCA HOEFFNER
A few things make Cindy Waterman teary-eyed; her daughter's surgeon at a Shriners Hospital for Children is one of them.
"He's so into her," Mrs. Waterman said, whose 8-year-old daughter, Logen was born with a cleft palate. "He has a plan and knows what she'll look like."
Logen is one of almost 1 million children who have been helped by Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Jeff and Cindy Waterman adopted Logen when she was 7, and the Shriners already had "taken her under their wing" long before the adoption, Mrs. Waterman said.
"They're very sweet and they're all funny," she said. "The positive energy and encouragement is incredible."
For the first time, the Texas Shrine Association will be holding its annual convention in Tyler. It is set for May 30 to June 2. Many people might not be aware of the good the Shriners do with their children's hospitals, said Chet Timbs, member of the Sharon Shrine in Tyler.
"I got involved because I was interested in helping children," he said.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a health care system of 22 hospitals specializing in orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate correction. Children are eligible regardless of the patients' ability to pay.
"The first patient to be admitted in 1922 was a little girl with a clubfoot, who had learned to walk on the top of her foot rather than the sole," according to the website. "Through the remarkable foresight, commitment and fundraising skills of the Shriners nearly one million children have been treated at one of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children across the United States, and in Canada and Mexico."
Holly Lake resident Christi Cochran knew her son, Christopher Albright, would be self-conscious about the port wine stain birthmark on his face. When he was 4 years old, a Shriner approached Ms. Cochran about taking him to a Shriners hospital for laser treatment.
"I hadn't even thought about the Shriners hospital," she said. "He said he would sponsor his treatment. I didn't know who he was. I still don't. Shriners are just great people. I can't praise them enough."
Christopher, now 16, has had about 18 treatments since he was 4.
"It's made a big difference in his appearance -- of course he was a good-looking boy to begin with, even though I'm his mom," she said. "We've never had a bad experience at the treatments; they make it comfortable for both of us."
The hospital is in Galveston, but the Shriners even provide transportation, she and Mrs. Waterman said.
Organizers are looking forward to what will be a week of competitions and fun, said David Hamm, potentate of the Sharon Shriners and president of the Texas Shrine Association.
"It's a thrill for the convention to be here," said Shari Rickman, Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president and general manager of conventions. "The 13 temples from all over the state of Texas are coming. ... They love Tyler, I think it's because of our hospitality. They get an exceptional experience when they're here. Our citizens really appreciate what they do."
Ms. Rickman estimated that with the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Shriners staying in hotels, eating and restaurants and seeing the sights in Tyler, the city would benefit from an economic impact of more than $2 million, she said.
The Sharon Shrine has a unique history, said Chet Timbs, who is a member of the Sharon Shrine Temple motorcycle corps. Although Imperial Potentates are usually chosen from larger temples, Sharon Shrine Potentate Evertt Evans was selected, making him the first chosen from a motor corps, Timbs said.
Timbs, 80, will be participating in this year's motorcycle competitions before he retires from a 33-year corps membership.
"No one will ever beat that record," he said.
The public is invited to attend that and other competitions during the week. For the motor corps competition, motorcycles and riders will be inspected and perform a routine.
"At the parades they do figure eights," he said. "That's nothing compared to the competitions."
This year will mark the 78th state convention for the organization. Shriners International is an international private fraternity founded in 1878. They are most recognized by their hats, called a fez.
"Named after the city of Fez, Morocco, the hat represented the Arabian theme the fraternity was founded on," according to www.shrinersinternational.org
Shriners International was first founded in 1872 on the principles of camaraderie, fun and philanthropy, according to its website.
Many of the convention's events are open to the public. The parade is the biggest event and will include things not seen in other parades, such as the Shriner's Oriental Band. Members of the band play traditional instruments as well as a few less-seen, such as the tambourine and an instrument called a musette, Hamm said.
The parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Front and Glenwood, traveling West on Front Street and will end in the parking lot of Harvey Convention Center.
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