For over 90 years, the Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis, Missouri, has been helping children and changing lives, including many hundreds in Kansas. The hospital serves children from birth to 18 by providing medical care for kids with special orthopedic needs.
Now the hospital, which serves patients in Kansas and 7 other states around Missouri, is preparing for the next phase of service. Public Relations Specialist Susan Bland, herself a former patient at the Shriners Hospital, says the hospital broke ground on March 20th on a 90,000 square foot facility to be located near the Washington University School of Medicine, just two blocks from the original Shriners hospital. “The majority of our physicians are faculty with the Washington University School of Medicine”, she says. “We are going to continue that partnership with the new facility”. Completion is expected to be in 2015.
Bland says as medicine has changed, so have the hospital’s needs. “We’re doing more outpatient services these days”, she says, “but we still have occasional in-patient surgeries where kids stay overnight. The current facility fits those needs, but the new facility will have new technology that will help with research and making medical breakthroughs.”
For many years, Kansas Shrine Bowl players and coaches traveled to St. Louis to tour the hospital and meet young patients and hospital staff. That changed in 2011 when it became no longer financially feasible to make the trip. Instead, the hospital has been coming to Kansas prior to the game, bringing patients and equipment, as a way of demonstrating what the hospital does. This year, the hospital will “set up shop” at the Washburn University Union on Thursday, July 25th, and will include some patients from Kansas.
Bland says bringing the hospital to the Shrine Bowl instead of the other way around has yielded some advantages. “With us coming to Kansas, approximately 750 people are going to meet our patient ambassadors, our hospital staff, and our medical professionals. Everyone is going to have the opportunity to meet us, but what’s most important is that we have the opportunity to share something we love with the participants of the Kansas Shrine Bowl”. That includes some 200 members of the Masonic All-State Marching Band, students attending cheer and dance camps, and members of the Shrine Bowl All-Star Cross-Country teams who will be gathered in Topeka in preparation for their events.
Bland says the annual trek to Kansas, which involves several busloads of people and equipment, has provided an unexpected benefit for the young patients who make the trip. “It’s kind of like a summer camp for them”, she says. “They can meet other kids, make new friends. On one hand we’re helping the Shrine Bowl and helping the Shriners, but we are also helping our kids, too, and we are excited about that.”
Over the years, the St. Louis hospital has treated over 100,000 patients. Nationwide, Shriners Hospitals have treated over one million patients. The Shriners hospital system currently has 22 hospitals in North America. Twenty of those are in the U.S., with one each in Canada (Montreal) and Mexico (Mexico City). While the St. Louis hospital specializes in orthopedics, other hospitals provide service for burns and spinal injuries. And Bland says patients sometimes get help from more than one Shriners Hospital. “If one of our patients being treated here, say for a prosthetic, but also needs treatment for a cleft palate, we may send that patient to our cleft palate specialist at the Chicago hospital. Whatever condition that child is in, we will get them help.”
All Shrine Bowl events are produced and presented to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children [SHC]. Children up to the age of 18 are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. The 40th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, July 27th, 2013, in Topeka, Kansas, at Yager Stadium on the Washburn University campus. Kickoff will be at 7:00 pm. Tickets and additional information are available at www.kansasshrinebowl.com or by calling 800-530-5524.