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, including 5-year-old Anthony Smith of Marianna. We first introduced you to Anthony back in November. For the last three years local Shriners have been driving he and his mother Roxanne back and forth for treatments at the Shriners Hospital in Tampa. Thanks to our sister station WFLA, we got to see the impact firsthand.
It's a big day for five-year-old Anthony Smith. Today he's getting fitted for new A.F.O. braces, ankle foot orthesis. Without them, the energetic pre-schooler has a tough time walking. Anthony was born with cerebal palsy and minor brain damage. "It's been a struggle because he has lots of medical needs. We come back and forth a lot, but it's been helping," said his mom Roxanne. Anthony needs nearly monthly Botox treatments and therapy to keep his leg muscles stretched and pliable.
For Roxanne, the total care Anthony recieves through the Shriners is nothing short of a God-send. "I know it costs a lot to come down here but I just don't have it," said Roxanne. "Just knowing that there is a place you can take him and they take care of all of his needs. They help with the ride down here so I don't have to stress about the gas or where are we going to stay cause they take care of all that. So yeah, it relieves some stress."
Here at Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa the new braces are not only fitted, adjustments are made right on site. Helping to facilitate this level of care gives Shriner Cliff Hendrix great joy. "We've been doing this for three years, it's been gratifying to watch him grow up. And we'll continue doing it," said Cliff. "Cliff and Marshal, they have been with us since the beginning. They are like fathers to us," said Roxanne.
As close as they are to Anthony and Roxanne, the Shriners hope one day Anthony's well enough that he won't need them any longer. "That will be a sad day but that's the goal, a good quality of life for Anthony, a good quality of life of his own," said Marshal. For now they will take on the challenges together, one step at a time.
If you'd like more information about the Shriners Hospitals for Children, or to donate, call 850-769-8303.