Shriner Shares Unique Journey From Patient's Dad to Fraternity Noble
When Adam brought his 11-year-old son to his most recent appointment at Shriners Children’s, there was something different about the dad.
Although he didn’t formally start the petition process until recently, his journey to become a Shriner really began almost a decade ago after a tragic accident at their home.
Adam was cleaning up the yard and burning brush when Jeffrey knocked over the can of fuel.
The fumes from the gas can caught fire, burning Jeffrey – then just 2 years old – on nearly 50% of his body. Adam immediately grabbed his son and smothered the flames, burning his own hands in the process.
A neighbor called 911 and little Jeffrey was flown to a hospital in Kansas City, where he was then transferred to Shriners Children’s, a specialty pediatric burn hospital in Ohio.
Adam, who needed treatment for his own burns, spent the first 24 hours more than 600 miles away from his wife and son. “Of course I was worried about them,” he said. “But I was in no shape to get up there right away. I felt better knowing my wife was with him and I would get there as soon as I could.”
I’ve now seen both ends of the spectrum. The Shriners were there for me and my son, and now I can be there for other families and know that I’m making a difference just by wearing this fez.
But his anxiety didn’t ease even after he made it to his son’s bedside. “I didn’t recognize my son,” he remembered. “He was covered in bandages and hooked up to machines so that he no longer looked like the son I knew.”
Adam and his wife leaned into the expertise of the clinical staff and generosity of the Shriners during Jeffery’s three-month stay at the hospital. “The doctors and nurses knew what to expect and took the time to explain every step of the healing process to us in a way we could understand,” he said. “We also didn’t have to worry about toiletries or clothes when we first got there. They made sure we had everything we needed so we could focus only on Jeffrey.”
He also learned more about the fraternal organization, watching the transportation teams known as “Road Runners” bring in children from across the United States for treatment of burns, cleft lip and cleft palate, and complex skin and wound conditions. “I had seen them in parades in Kansas, but I didn’t totally understand the mission until I was on the receiving end of their philanthropy,” he said.
But most of Adam’s focus was on helping Jeffrey improve. Each milestone Jeffrey reached, like learning how to walk and use his hands, was worth celebrating. Jeffrey continued to improve and eventually the time between hospital appointments gradually lengthened as he got stronger.
Still, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Adam said he felt called to serve after a chance encounter with a Shriner during a community event. “I told him about my personal connection to Shriners and what my son experienced, and he invited me to join,” Adam recalled.
Two years later and Adam is now one of those nobles, helping to raise money for the next family who may need the specialized care at Shriners Children’s. “I’ve now seen both ends of the spectrum,” Adam said. “The Shriners were there for me and my son, and now I can be there for other families and know that I’m making a difference just by wearing this fez.”