Shriners Hospital in Greenville, SC several times. We became acquainted with the Shriners and their hospitals through a co-worker of Ben's grandpa, after she gently harassed him for months about the work they do for children. At the time, we did not have great insurance, were new to the medical world of orthopedic care, so we gave them a try. The Shriners provided us guidance, free assistance and medical attention for Ben.
When Ben was accepted into the Medicaid program, we were able to use local doctors. The drive to Greenville was hard on me with two little boys and it was usually an all day venture by myself. Although I am happy to have more convenient options now, I am sad not to have the Shriners' expertise and caring atmosphere.
Every year since Ben began treatment at Shriners Hospital, we have received an invitation to attend their annual Christmas Party, held at their club in Charlotte. This year was our third one, after taking a two year break. I am so glad we attended. The first two were awkward for both Ryan and me. We were getting used to the idea of Ben being a child with special needs and being parents to him. Being thrown into a party situation where many children were in wheelchairs, walkers and braces was too much for us. We went into emotional overload.
This year was different - we had fun and enjoyed our time at the party. Knowing what to expect and being more comfortable in our own skin, it was just easier. We have dealt with the early emotions of discovering that our child is different, and when we attend an event like this where everyone is in a similar situation, rather than feel like outsiders, we feel good to know we are a part of this group of families.
The Shriners know how to throw a party. Between clowns, carnival games, balloons, candy, hot dogs, chips and cookies - this was a party made for kids. Santa AND Mrs. Claus attend this very special event, ready to give hugs and toys. Each child who visits with the Claus' is given an age appropriate toy. Ben, the movie loving boy that he is, received one of the Spiderman movies. (I think Ryan had something to do with that choice.)
The Shriners organization dedicates themselves to raising funds to help children. They are wonderful group of people, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of their world. I think all of our children will gain a good understanding of what it is like to give selflessly, treat everyone with kindness and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
If you are not familiar with this group or have only thought of them as the men wearing those silly red hats, please check out their websites. I promise you will be amazed: