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Sunday, November 18, 2012

A night with the men of Melha

After my presentation at the VT Shriners Ball this summer, we were invited to the Fall Ceremonial at Melha Shriners in Springfield MA. 

At this ceremony they welcomed new members into their Shrine. This activity is not usually open to "outsiders" but for this ceremony they invited 8 of us to join them. During this celebration, the new members performed a skit. I'm not sure how much of that skit is privileged info so I'll only share a brief, edited bit. Towards the end, as a member narrated the actions happening on the stage, the Masons built a temple. On the top of this temple were stones with different symbols that are very meaningful to the members. They lifted the last of the stones to the top of the temple and the symbol on this one was the Shriners' emblem. As I watched from back stage I was having a hard time keeping myself together. Once the Temple was complete, a child (my eldest daughter Ashtyn), was wheeled, in a wheelchair, out onto the stage and the Shriner picked up the crutches and then the child and carried her.

"No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child" - Abraham Lincoln

I can't even begin to tell you how hard it was not to cry. Even as I write this, I'm tearing up. This is what Shriners do and have done for almost 100 years and all that they do, they do to help children, and one of those children is mine.

After the performance, we watched a video of 2012's Patient Ambassadors and then presentations from the three guest speakers. Two are current Shriners Hospitals patients, and the third, the scary part, was myself. There was a 4th Shriners patient there with us as well but he let his sister Molly do the talking. She did an absolutely wonderful job, as did Meg Moore. It was great to hear their stories and memories of their visits to the Springfield hospital. Its funny, we all had the same fears and now share the same thoughts and experiences, even though our needs and reasons for being there are completely different. I was already nervous about speaking to begin with but then Molly wheeled out onto the floor to share her and her brother's experiences and their love for the hospital, and then Meg wheeled out to do the same as she shared hers with the aid of her computer speaking program, it was all I had not to melt.   

I know that Shriners Hospital does amazing things. I've seen a lot of their miracles first hand but I still sometimes forget just how much they do. And while to some people, having one hand would be the end of the world in their minds, Taylor's needs are so small and she can do anything. Some of the children Shriners Hospitals help, just like the three wonderful patients we met tonight, even after the miracles are done, they are still unable to speak or walk and do other things a lot of us take for granted. 

My presentation began with my video/slideshow of Taylor. I changed it up a little bit so it wasn't the exact same one I showed in Vermont but it still had the same effect. Everyone listened to Lady Gaga sing "Born this way" and watch Taylor begin as a little blip on the ultrasound monitor, receive her first, second, all the way to 5th Armie, see the loving family she has, the Shriners and friends we've met along the way and the finale, one of the best things I have ever experienced.....

...... proof that the Springfield Shriners Hospital would stay open!

And as the video plays, Taylor is dancing around going "That's me! This is my movie" and just captivating the audience. Then, when the music ends, the three of us head to the podium and instead of me talking to the crowd, Taylor took the mic and attempted to tell them something about herself when she was a baby and then said "Thank you" to everyone in the room. They all applauded her and then played her video again so she could dance around some more. Then it was time for me to hold back the tears and try to speak. This was a little easier to do than concentrate as the girls took the stage behind me. They climbed up, they climbed down, they jumped, and just went goofy. As I got to the part of "nothing will ever slow her down" we all kind of laughed as I thanked them for loading the girls up on chocolates, sugar cookies and coca cola before the ceremony. I shared with them a few of our experiences at the Springfield hospital and made sure they know that we love the staff  and even mentioned just how awesome Brock, Jim, Rob and Debi are. 

I somehow managed to get through it without tears and for the second time a bunch of grown men in the audience did not. I met with some of them during the intermission and they shared with me their stories of how they were once Shriners patients or their children were or are and one gentleman was going through a similar ordeal to my ultrasound right now. 

I'll never get used to Shriners thanking me. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't do what I do. They are the miracle workers. I'm just a grateful mom trying to thank them for what they do for all the kids out there.

Our night ended with enjoying the different Shrine groups introducing themselves and showing off their talents. The marching band, the drummers, the highlanders.....let me rephrase that: THE HIGHLANDERS! I get to see them maybe once a year, if i'm lucky. AWESOME! I love bagpipes!!! , the bikers (haha "American made rides up front, all others to the back! YES! ) , the clowns. BRING ON THE CLOWNS! 

Lookout "Schmeckles" I think Ashtyn's in love with "Fix It". And "Clueless", you better get to Clown College, these guys know how to make balloon animals. "Cheer Up" , you had them at "hello".

The girls went out with the clowns as they did their performance and had a blast! And then as the other groups came out, Ashtyn and Taylor bounced balloons on the stage as the "higher ups" tried to listen. Everyone thought it was great as I nervously watched, waiting for the over-tired crankiness to become unstoppable. We said our final goodbyes as they set up for dinner. I knew at any moment Chaos was going to self combust. We headed out to the parking lot and Ashtyn began to sob. One of the Shriners was out front with his Lady and she came to the rescue. She brought the girls over to her car and let them pick out a toy for their ride home. This stopped the waterworks long enough to leave the parking lot but I had to promise her a happy meal to ensure the rest of the ride went smoothly.

Thank you everyone at Melha for showing us a wonderful time and for everything you've done and everything you do.........changing the world by caring for kids and helping those kids defy the odds!