They are known for the fez that adorns their heads, or driving around in parades in mini-cars (complete with fezzes).
They regularly sponsor a circus — and, actually, still do though mainly in the U.S. — that would appear in towns across Canada until cities instituted bylaws prohibiting animal acts from appearing.
But there is much more to being a Shriner than a three-ring circus, fancy hats and funny cars.
“We want people to know we are more than clowns and more than parades,” said Noble Mike Caira, president of Vernon Shrine Club No. 7.
“The big thing is what we do for the kids.”
That would be taking care of kids.
Internationally, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals For Children with the first in Canada open in Montreal.
At these hospitals, Shriners help families treat their kids free of charge to such ailments as scoliosis, hand, leg or back problems, dislocated hips, sports injuries to bones, muscles or tendons, club feet, cerebral palsy, cleft lips or palates, burns and bone tumours.
“Whatever we can do for kids and families, we look after them from baby age to the age of 18,” said Caira, 59, a former RCMP officer. “Trips are covered, medical costs are covered. We help where we can.”
Caira said the Vernon Shrine Club was approached last year by family members living in the North Okanagan that has family in Ukraine with a young boy who needed medical assistance beyond the capabilities that exist in their country.
As a result of the Shrine Club’s efforts, the child has been accepted for assessments in the new Montreal Shrine Hospital and should be coming to Canada shortly.
The Shriners, like many other organizations, fundraise in order to raise money to give back to the community.
The big ticket item annually in the Vernon club is the annual Father’s Day boat draw, where the Vernon Shriners give away a boat and trailer in a raffle.
They also sell ties and, new to the Shriners, a Shrine Dragon created by a Kamloops artist.
“Money raised locally is used for local families, or we donate to Cops For Kids,” said Caira. “Some of the money is sent to our Gizeh Temple, or headquarters, in Burnaby for the B.C./Yukon division.
The Vernon Shrine Club received its charter Sept. 20, 1948 with 59 original members (21 from Vernon, 24 from Kelowna, 13 from Salmon Arm, one from Vancouver).
Caira, who became a Shriner five years ago while living in Kamloops, said the local club currently has about 30 members.
“The average age is 70-ish,” smiled Caira. “We do have some younger guys.”
Caira joined the Shriners as their philosophy of helping others fit in with his role as a police officer. The last five years, he said, have been worth joining the club.
“The smiles you see on faces when we’re selling tickets or when we’re in the (Vernon Winter Carnival) parade, that’s what it’s all about,” said Caira. “I’ve had people come up and say thank you for what you’ve done because they were Shrine children, and these are people in theirs 30s, 40s or 50s. They say they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Shriners. We get a lot of cases like that, a lot of gratitude. It’s an excellent organization with great people in it.”
If you’re interested in joining the Vernon Shrine Club, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.