The Thomson Shrine Club was recently named the 2006 Club of the Year of the Alee Shriners. The Alee Chapter is based in Savannah and has 37 clubs. The Thomson Club consists of members from Thomson, Warrenton, Gibson, Wrens, Mitchell, Harlem and Lincolnton.
"It comes from a lot of dedication, hard work and donations to hospitals," said Kenny May, the 2006 Thomson club president. "I want to thank everybody (in the surrounding communities) for their support to the Thomson Shrine Club over the past years."
While most people identify Shriners as the men sporting trademark red hats and driving small cars in circles along a parade route, Mr. May said it is not widely known how much work Shriners do to help children with medical needs.
Shriners of North America is a fraternal organization of Master Masons who support Shriners Hospitals for Children. Mr. May said there are 22 pediatric specialty hospitals located in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The hospitals provide free medical treatment to children under the age of 18 for orthopaedics, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lips and palates. The hospitals also provide rehabilitation and psychological treatment and conduct research.
The Thomson Club supports the hospital in Greenville, Mr. May said because "it is closest, and more utilized by people in the area that we sponsor." Each year, the club sponsors "activities," or fundraisers such as raffles, charity rides and bucket brigades. For 2006, Mr. May said the local club held one more raffle than usual, and they had two bucket brigades at the intersection of White Oak Road and Harrison Road.
"To be president of the number one club was certainly an honor to me," Mr. May said. "We worked harder this year, and we were successful."
The treasurer of the Thomson Club, Bill Wagner, said the honor was well-earned. Mr. Wagner said the Thomson Club, with approximately 40 members, donated more than $10,400 to the Greenville Hospital in 2006, while the Augusta Club, with approximately 140 members, donated about $3,600.
Participation in parades helps keep the Shriners in public view according to Pete Coffield, the 2007 Thomson Club president. He said the men who drive the specialized go-carts pay for all the involved expenses themselves. Typically, Mr. Coffield said the Thomson Club participates in approximately 35 parades each year.
"There's nothing better than driving by and seeing a child standing on the side of the street with a big smile on his face," he said.
Parade participation also enables the Shriners to see the fruits of their labors, Mr. May said. While participating in the Oliver Hardy Festival parade in Harlem recently, Mr. May said a young boy walked up to him and said "I'm a Shrine boy." Mr. May said the mother told him the boy had never walked at all until he was four years old and had surgery at the Greenville Shriners Hospital.
"And there he was walking and running around like he had never even had a head cold," Mr. May said. "That is where we get our rewards."
In addition to go-cart motor patrols, Shriners may also belong to a clown club, a motorcycle club, or a variety of other units.
There are many units for women and children within the clubs, also.
The Thomson Shrine Club meets monthly for dinner, which includes their families, and to plan their activities.
"When I first started, I didn't know my whole family would wind up being involved," Mr. May said. "Our ladies help us; we couldn't survive without them."
The Thomson Club also won Club of the Year in 1993, and won other awards in 1991 and 2003.
For more information on making a donation to a Shriner Hospital, visit www.shrinershospitals.org, or call 1-800-241-4438.
1) shriners -- cutline: The Thomson Shrine Club was named the Club of the Year, 2006. Pictured is Pete Coffield, the 2007 president, (left) and Kenny May, the 2006 president, presenting the plaque at the monthly meeting Monday evening.