Site updated 11/26/13 09:13 AM Upper Dauphin Sentinel ©2006
Families thankful for Shriners
At this time of year, many people make lists of the things for which they are thankful.
Two families in southcentral Pennsylvania are sure to include the Upper Dauphin Shrine Club on their own lists.
During the past year, the families – both of which have children with special physical needs – received assistance from the club, enabling them to see progress in their children’s health and well-being.
One mother is very direct: ‘‘If it wasn’t for the Shrine, my daughter would not have had the chance to walk.”
In turn, the Shriners are thankful to hear such words, for the club wants to come to the aid of similar families without regard to their financial situation.
‘‘This us what we are all about,’’ Ross Spicher, president of the Upper Dauphin Club, said. ‘‘We try to do a lot, but we don’t blow our horn enough. If there’s a need, we’d like to know about it.’’
Assisting countless families. Formed in 1973 with a current roster of 150 members, Upper Dauphin is one of several clubs in an eight-county region of southcentral Pennsylvania that operate under the umbrella of the Harrisburg-based Zembo Shrine, which itself is a subsidiary of the Shriners International fraternal organization.
Shriners International operates children’s hospitals throughout the United States and the rest of the world where children in physical need can undergo surgery or other necessary treatments. (The closest hospital to this area is in Philadelphia.)
Since its formation, the Upper Dauphin club has assisted countless families in ways that include transportation to and from one of the children’s hospitals as well as the purchase of equipment to assist the children with walking and other daily needs.
The Shriners raise funds by operating a ride concession at Hersheypark and through other ventures.
At a recent dinner, the local club welcomed as guests two families it had assisted last year: TJ and Jennifer Karijomenggolo and their daughter Keira, of Harrisburg; and Jack and Sandra Graver of Halifax and their son Evan.
Skepticism gives way to hope. Keira Karijomenggolo, age 6, was born prematurely and remains challenged by cerebral palsy and seizure and feeding disorders.
‘‘Her legs were pretty much curled; she could only sit Indian-style,’’ her mother recalled. ‘‘Her feet were so deformed we could not get shoes on her.’’
Jennifer said she and TJ were made aware of the Shrine’s services by Keira’s godparents.
‘‘Initially we were very skeptical, but very quickly we realized that the phrase, ‘You get what you pay for’ was really not true in this case.’’
With the club’s help, Keira underwent corrective surgery at the children’s hospital in Galveston, Tex.
‘‘Her feet, and the contractions in her legs, have been corrected,’’ Jennifer said. ‘‘She is actively standing in her stander and taking steps with the assistance of her gate trainer. We can get shoes on her feet, which is a blessing.
‘‘It’s going to take a while, but her therapists foresee her being able to walk, with or without assistance,’’ she added.
And for that, Jennifer credits the Shrine’s assistance.
‘‘Without them, Keira would not have even been able to bear weight on her feet to be able to stand,’’ she said. ‘‘The hospital care she received was unbelieveable and far exceeded our expectations.’’
‘‘We are very blessed.’’ Evan Graver, who will be 10 years old next month, also is living with cerebral palsy and undergoes therapy for his physical and speech needs. He employs a walker and, for longer distance, a wheelchair.
For Evan and his parents, the challenge has been to keep him physically active. To help meet that need, the Upper Dauphin Shrine Club and the Twin Valleys Lions Club joined resources on the $1,800 cost of an adaptive tricycle.
‘‘He loves it,’’ Sandra Graver said.
‘‘He’s been able to use it since summer after he had surgery on his legs to regain strength and get a range of motion,’’ Sandra said. ‘‘Because of the CP, the more his muscles can be worked, the less tight they become. A bike like this is a really good tool for him.
‘‘The bike is adjustable for his height, so it can follow his growth for several years. They way he’s eating right now, we’re not sure,’’ she said with a laugh.
In addition to food, Evan enjoys school, musical activities and being outdoors, particularly riding on tractors at his grandparents’ dairy farm. He’s also in the cast of his church Christmas play.
‘‘He doesn’t necessarily do all the things other kids do, but we try to get him in as many things as we can,’’ Sandra said.
The Gravers attend Halifax United Methodist Church and, through pastor Dale Parker, were able to meet Shriners in the congregation.
‘‘We were fortunate that Evan’s surgeries were covered by our insurance, but the Shrine and Lions paid for the bike,’’ Sandra said. ‘‘We had no reservations about receiving help. Of all the organizations we’ve been approached by in nine years, they were the only ones that didn’t have an income requirement.
‘‘We are very blessed that they helped us out like this,’’ she concluded.
In turn, Upper Dauphin club Immediate Past President Marlin Wilbert said the group is thankful for the Twin Valley Lions’ willingness to assist with the bike purchase.
While the local Shrine club wants to help local children, they are not averse to assisting in other places throughout southcentral Pennsylvania.
‘‘Last year, the Zembo Shrine made 280 trips, at a cost of $33,000, to transport children to hospitals. A couple of our members assisted in the transport,’’ Wilbert said. ‘‘The Zembo learned that one child needed specialized treatments so the club financed a trip to Canada on her behalf.’’
As Spicher put it, ‘‘We want to help out wherever the need is.’’
For more information. Families who want to inquire about receiving assistance through the Upper Dauphin Shrine Club may contact Spicher at 896-8358. The club emphasizes that a family’s financial situation is not a determining factor in whether they receive assistance.
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