LIHUE — Three hundred.
That’s the number of children and young adults on Kauai who receive treatment from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Honolulu.
And for the nearly 17 Kauai Shrine Club members, that’s the amount of blessings that they are able to count this holiday season, said club secretary Karvel Rose.
“I don’t think you could go very far on Kauai without running into somebody whose niece, aunt, uncle, child, or someone in their family who is or has been a Shriners’ kid,” the 74-year-old Princeville resident said. “As far as Hawaii goes, late Sen. Daniel Inouye was a Shriners’ kid. We have a long history of Shriners on Kauai.”
The Kauai Shrine Club is the local chapter of Shriners International, a Tampa, Florida-based fraternal organization that has direct ties to Freemasonry and operates 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children facilities in North America, Canada and Mexico.
For Rose, who served as the potentate, or president, of the organization’s state chapter, Aloha Shriners, in 2008, there are plenty of reasons to help patients and their families.
“We had one little girl from Cambodia who had been involved in a fire and she didn’t get any treatment — they just put her in the back of a corner,” Rose recalled. “When she came to Shriners Hospital, her foot was fused to her thigh, and they told her, ‘Well, we can amputate your foot,’ but she didn’t want that. She was 15 years old and she walked out of the hospital for the first time, so we were able to see her do that. That’s why I do these kind of things.”
When medical staff from Shriners Hospital on Oahu made their biannual visit on Thursday and Friday to see some of their patients on Kauai, Rose said it was a family reunion of sorts for Kauai Shine Club members who helped check them in at Kauai Medical Clinic.
“We had one gal come in this morning who brought us some cinnamon rolls — she came in yesterday with her boy and he’s been a patient here for about four or five years,” Rose said on Friday as he and other Kauai Shrine Club members waited for more patients to arrive for their appointments. “It’s a family-oriented effort.”
The Garden Island caught up with Karvel Rose, along with his wife, Nancy Rose, “Shrine Lady,” to talk about what they do and the challenges facing the organization on Kauai.
The Garden Island: What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Karvel Rose: Watching these kids smile, get treated and walk out of the hospital. It’s amazing, you know. Basically, it’s why we do it.
Nancy Rose: This morning, one of the parents came in — and I knew her son wasn’t on today’s (appointment) list because I looked at today’s list — and she said, “Oh no, he came in yesterday,” but she dropped off some cinnamon rolls and orange juice for the workers. We get to know many of these kids because we’ve seen some of them since they were babies. Now all of a sudden, they’re 13 or 14 years old already — it’s amazing — so we get to know the families even though we only see some of them twice a year or sometimes once a year.
TGI: What would you say is the biggest challenge for the Kauai Shrine Club?
KR: Raising the funds for the transportation of patients. That’s the biggest challenge, I think, and getting new members. We only have the Freemasons to draw from, because you have to be one to join the Shriners, and our Kauai lodge only has about 40 Masons in it. And, about 20 of them live on the Mainland. I think we have about 10 life members, but I know three of them live on the Mainland. We actually had to change our bylaws to allow for just three members to be present to conduct business because sometime we just don’t get that many — if we go on a trip or something, somebody else is on a trip, so it’s hard to get everybody out. Kauai is not so bad, but in other areas, the problem now is that we don’t have the neighborhoods like we used to because we’re such a mobile society now — mom doesn’t stay home and take care of the kids, so she’s working, too, and dad is changing jobs periodically, so they really don’t get involved in fraternal organizations.
TGI: How much does the Shrine Club usually have to raise for the transportation of patients?
KR: The Aloha Shrine usually has to raise about $400,000, but we get some help from some foundations and stuff like that. It’s a pretty big job, but I have to thank the Pop Warner group, because back, I think it was in 1962, we sponsored Pop Warner football on Kauai, and every year they have the Shrine Bowl. They donate the receipts from the Shrine Bowl to the Kauai Shrine Club for the transportation of Shriners Hospital patients and their parents or guardians to Oahu. They gave us a $1,500 check this year and the referees gave us a $500 check, so it’s community involvement.
TGI: What other fundraisers does the Kauai Shrine Club have to benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children?
KR: In addition to the Shrine Bowl, we also have people who donate individually every year. It’s hard for us to really get involved in any major fundraiser because there’s just not that many of us. I mean, we had trouble covering the shifts for the clinic this time because we just didn’t have that many people.
NR: Sometimes, we’ve also stood outside of Walmart, Foodland and Safeway and sold these Shriner antenna balls that you can hang on your rear view mirror.
KR: Some of it is also from word of mouth — you’d be surprised. We sit here and we treat the kids that we treat now, and some elderly lady came in and, “You treated my grandson 30 years ago and he has gotten so much better. We really appreciate it.” The family of one child who passed away recently donated $500 to our transportation fund for all of the services he received over the years.
TGI: What usually happens when children on Kauai need to go to Honolulu or other Shriners hospitals on the Mainland for treatment?
NR: The hospital in Honolulu will send the ticket vouchers to the parents or guardians, and if they have to stay, like, if it’s for a long surgery, we have apartments for the family to stay in. Before they got those finished, the Ronald McDonald House used to let our patients’ families stay there because it’s all about the kids. Now we have some of our own apartments, so we don’t use theirs as much.
KR: We even send kids to the Mainland when there’s a disability or injury that we can’t handle here like, for example, cleft palates — we have two hospitals on the West Coast that take care of cleft palates — and we’ll pay for it. About four years ago, Shriners International decided that we’ll start accepting insurance for patients, if they have it. We had never done that before, but because of high costs and increasing medical costs, they decided that we’ll bill their insurance and collect the money there, but if they don’t have insurance, the parents are never going to have to pay for anything.