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10:20 AM Mon, Dec. 10th

Kingman, other Shriners chapters help support children's hospital network

Shriners are easy to spot in a parade.

The red fez with a black tassel is the most distinctive symbol, along with the very small cars they drive.

However, there is a more serious side to this international fraternity, which prides itself on the 22 Shriners Hospitals in the United States and Canada.

To date more than 700,000 children have been helped at the Shriners Hospitals.

The first Shrine Temple, organized in New York City in 1872, paved the way for an additional 191 Shrine Temples, or chapters.

The first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922 in Shreveport, La.

Since then approximately $6 billion has been spent operating the 22 hospitals, according to information from Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The 2003 operating budget for Shriners Hospitals for Children is $541 million.

Another $25 million has been allocated for research and $64 million for capital expenditures.

Kingman resident Ashley Ketchner, who sustained burns over 20 percent of her body after she was hit and dragged by a van in May, is one of thousands of children helped every year at the Shriners Northern California hospital, which specializes in orthopedic, burn and spinal cord injury care.

Shriners Hospitals are staffed and equipped to treat children with acute burns and those needing plastic reconstructive or restorative surgery as a result of healed burns.

There is never a charge to patients for any of the medical care or services received at Shriners Hospitals, including outpatient and inpatient care, diagnostic services, surgery, casts, braces, X-rays, and rehabilitation programs.

Robert Bursley, the secretary and treasurer of the Kingman Masonic Shrine Club, said the Shrine philosophy is supported by each Shriner's annual hospital assessment, hospital fund-raising events and by contributions, gifts and bequests.

What Bursley cannot understand is why more families don't take advantage of the hospitals, which he said are only filled to 25 percent capacity.

"It is amazing how many adults were helped at Shriners Hospitals when they were children," he said.

"A lady came up to me a while ago and said.

'If it wasn't for the Shriners I wouldn't be walking today.' "

Bursley said the Shriners want to spread the word about the hospitals.

"We take all children, regardless of religion or color, and whether the family is broke or has millions," he said.

Application forms can be obtained from any Shriner, Shrine Temple or Shrine Club or Shriners Hospital or by calling (800) 237-5055.

For a burned child needing immediate emergency care, the referring physician should telephone the chief of staff at the nearest Shriners Hospital specializing in burn treatment.