Masonic Monday – Making Medical History through Charity

Masonic Monday is a series that discusses a bit of Freemasonry each week, from famous members to strange rituals.

We live in a time of medical breakthroughs, and medical history was made again last month.

Doctors from the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia were part of a medical team that performed the first-ever pediatric bilateral hand transplant by successfully transplanting donor hands and forearms onto eight-year-old Zion Harvey. Zion had lost both his hands and feet to an infection at the age of 2.

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After a year and a half of planning, Zion’s surgery took 12 hours and 2 dozen surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists. First, steel plates and screws were put in to connect the forearm bones; then the arteries and veins were attached using thread thinner than a human hair; next, each muscle and tendon was rejoined; and finally the nerves were appended.

zion 2

Just days later, he could scratch his nose and hold a book. He now looks forward to playing on monkey bars, throwing a football, and playing guitar. You can read more about Zion’s historic surgery, and even see a video, here.

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Zion’s case is a true testament to Shriners Hospitals for Children’s commitment to innovative, world-class pediatric care. And they do it all free of charge to the patient and family! They do collect insurance from patients that have it, but they never bill or collect any payment from any patient – not even deductibles.

There are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in 3 countries. They specialize in treating children with orthopedic conditions, severe burns, cleft lip and palate, spinal cord injury, and other conditions. Did I mention that all this treatment is free for the patients and their families?

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How do they do it? And what does it have to do with Freemasonry?

In order to join the Shriners, a man must first be a Freemason, so all Shriners are Masons.

Charity is one of the main tenets of Freemasonry, and it is taken seriously by most Masons. Today, in the United States alone, Freemasons collectively contribute an average of over $2.6 million every single day to charitable causes, in addition to rendering service as relief.*

The Shriners Hospitals for Children are just one of their charitable causes. Other well-known charities of Masons include Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Centers, RiteCare clinics, which aid children in language development, and the many educational grants and scholarships of Masonic Lodges. Lesser well known charities include grants and foundations providing support to groups such as The Humanitarian Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, State Mental Health Associations, Autism programs, the Deafness Research Foundation, Military outreach programs, child identification programs, cancer research projects, The Arthritis Fund, and programs for at-risk children, to name just a few. (While I try to not use my blog to advance agendas, I will just mention that you might keep this in mind next time you see those guys in the funny hats doing something to help raise money.)

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In addition, the Masonic Service Association of North America has donated over $9.5 billion since its inception in 1923 for relief to those affected by disasters such as earthquakes, floods and terrorism.**

When the contributions of Masons in the rest of the world are added, the picture of Masonic charity is monumental. But financial aid is only one part of the philanthropy; service to others is equally important.

Again, there are many ways Masons fulfill this standard. Most Lodges have service programs that might include such things as volunteering at local shelters or soup kitchens, cleaning highways or other areas of the community, visiting those in extended care facilities, or volunteering in mentoring programs. Many Lodges support organizations such as law enforcement, fire fighters, and other first responders, the military, or other groups or individuals working in service to others, such as by funding life insurance programs for them, providing needed items, or lending a helping hand however they can. Some Masons go as groups to areas of natural or human-caused disasters to work in any way they are able. On a more personal level, home-bound or ill members can generally count on visitations from their fraternal brothers; widows may rely on their late husbands’ fellow Masons to help care for yard work, home maintenance, or other chores; and other people of the community may depend on Masons to extend whatever aid they may reasonably be able to give.

What is the use of living, if it not be to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? ~ Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister, Freemason

* “Grand Lodge Masonic Charity,” The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Virginia, August 28, 2013, http://www. grandlodgeofvirginia.org/masonic_charity.htm.
**“Disaster Relief,” Masonic Service Association of North America, 2013, http://www.msana.com/msadisasterrelief.asp.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cathryn H on August 3, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I am proud to be the granddaughter of a Mason, the daughter-in-law of a Mason & Shriner. I belong to Eastern Star and Daughters of the Nile. These two groups also help in the same fields of service. Currently in CA, the Worthy Grand Matron has chosen the Blue Star Moms as one of our service projects.

    Reply

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