Panama City - Since 1922 the Shaddai Shriners have helped one million children with medical needs get the care they need free of charge. In Northwest Florida alone the organization is currently helping 300 families. For a four-year-old Marianna child, monthly trips to Tampa for treatment are not something to dread...thanks to the Shriners, they are something to get excited about.
Meet Anthony, an energetic and active pre-schooler. "He's got a will to go. Whatever he wants to do he is going to do it," said mom Roxanne Williams. Anthony was born with cerebral palsy and minor brain damage. He needs monthly Botox treatments and therapy to keep his leg muscles stretched and pliable so he can walk.
But that care is too costly for single mom Roxanne. That's where the Shriners come in. "Without the Shriners we wouldn't be able to get the treatments Anthony gets. A lot of the time I couldn't afford them," said Roxanne. For the last two years the Shriners have been transporting Anthony to and from their hospital in Tampa. "They provide total care, whatever he needs they provide," said Roxanne. That includes the new braces Anthony needs each year.
For the Shriners, this important work gives volunteers a deep sense of purpose. "It really is life fulfilling for me, I've been doing this for 42 years now and it's been a real treat to be able to pick up kids and follow through with them," said local Shaddai Shriner director Cliff Hendrix. He is leaving a legacy that will last beyond his lifetime. "When I'm not here anymore this child will remember us and his memory of the hospital and what we've done for him." "I just don't know what we'd do without them, they help us just that much," said Roxanne. "We love them."
Anthony's next trip to Tampa later this month. He'll be in the Shriners program until he is 18. If you'd like more information about the Shaddai Shriners Hospitals for Children, call 1-888-886-KIDS.