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Shriners Hospitals for Children
"Centers of Excellence"

Evolution of the
“World’s Greatest Philanthropy”


Shriners Hospitals for Children is a health care system that is world-renowned for pediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to age 18 with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palette are eligible for care and received all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the families’ ability to pay.

Find a Shriners Hospital

In the year 1870, several thousand of the 900,000 residents of Manhattan were Masons. Many of these Masons made it a point to lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant at 426 Sixth Avenue. They often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for Masons in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than ritual.

These men took their ideas and converted them into what would become the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.) While there is some question about the origin of the fraternity’s name, it is probably more than a coincidence that its initials, rearranged, spell out the words “A Mason.” On September 26, 1872, in New York City Masonic Hall, the first Shrine Temple in the United States was organized.

In subsequent years, while the organization was still primarily social, instances of philanthropic work became more frequent. In 1888, a Yellow Fever epidemic in Jacksonville, Florida and in the 1889 flood of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Shriners worked many long hours to relieve the suffering of the populace.

After the turn of the century, there was growing member support for establishing an official Shrine charity. After the 1906 devastating earthquake in San Francisco and in 1915 to offer relief to the European war victims, the Shriners contributed money and time to assist those in need.

In 1920, the Shriners passed a resolution to establish the “Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children” to be supported by a yearly $2 assessment from each Shriner.

First Hospital

Shriner Child & DoctorIn 1922, the cornerstone was in place for the first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, LA. The rules, and for all the other Shriners Hospitals which would follow, were simple: To be admitted, a child must be from a family unable to pay for the orthopaedic treatment he would receive, be under 14 years of age (later increased to 18) and be, in the opinion of the chief of staff, someone whose condition could be helped. The newest Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, California, which opened on April 14, 1997, is the only one in the Shrine system that provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care and conducts research, all in a single facility.

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Entering the Burn Care Field

In the early 1960’s, the only burn treatment center in the United States was part of the military complex. A committee was established to explore the areas of need and found that burn treatment was a field of service that was being bypassed. On November 1, 1963, the Shrine opened a seven-bed wing in the John Sealy Hospital on the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston as an interim center for the care of severe burns. In 1964, the Shrine opened a seven-bed ward in the Cincinnati General Hospital on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. A third interim operation, a five-bed ward, was opened March 13, 1964, in the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) under the direction of the Harvard Medical School. Since then, these three locations have constructed and opened their own new facilities.

Since the Shriners opened their burn hospitals in the 1960’s, a burned child’s chance of survival has more than doubled. They have saved children burned over 90 percent of their bodies.

Most importantly, perhaps, the establishment of the burn Shriners Hospitals has alerted the medical world to this special need which has, in turn, led to the establishment of non-Shrine burn centers throughout North America.

Continuing the Commitment – Spinal Cord Injuries

During the 1980’s, Shriners Hospitals initiated a number of new programs in their efforts to continue providing high-quality pediatric orthopaedic and burn care. In 1980, a spinal cord injury rehabilitation unit was opened at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia which became was the first spinal cord unit in the United States designed specifically for children and teenagers who suffer from these injuries. By 1984, two additional spinal cord injury units were operating in the Shriners Hospitals in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco Hospital, including the Spinal Cord Injury Unit, was relocated to the newest Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, California.

A Name Change

In 1996, the Shriners voted to officially change the name of their
official philanthropy to Shriners Hospitals for Children. This move permanently eliminated the word “crippled” from the organization and better reflects the mission of the Shriners Hospitals and their expansion of services that have been added over the years.

The new name is intended to reflect the philosophy of Shriners Hospitals, which is to provide medical care for children totally free of charge based only on what is the best for the child. The new name does not label children in any way but simply recognizes them for what they are: children.

Who is eligible for admission?

ShrinemanShriners Hospitals accept and treat any child up to their 18th birthday if, in the opinion of the hospital’s Chief of Staff, the child can be helped, and if treatment at another facility would place a financial burden on the family. Shriners Hospitals are open to all children without regard to race, religion, or relationship to a Shriner.

We are committed to providing the best care for children in our specialty areas of Orthopaedics, Burn Care, Spinal Cord Injury, and Cleft Lip and Palate, regardless of the family's ability to pay.

How about emergencies?

The sooner a burned child reaches a Shriners Burns Institute, the better his chances of recovery. In an emergency, the referring physician should immediately telephone the chief of staff at the nearest Shrine Burn Institute and indicate the patient needs emergency care. Non-emergency admissions for reconstructive or plastic surgery should be arranged through the administrator of the nearest Shrine Burns Institute.

The Shriners Burns Institutes are located in Boston, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Galveston, Texas; and Sacramento, California.

How are the hospitals funded?

Primary financial support for these hospitals comes from the income from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Endowment Fund, which is maintained through fund raising events sponsored by the local Shrine Clubs and Units, from donations and bequests from the general public and an annual assessment from every Shriner. Our current budget for the year 2003 is over $650,000,000.

Without this support, these Shriners Hospitals would not exist, and we thank you over and again for your generous contributions that assist us in carrying out our mission.

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Most of all – The Children Thank You!

Where are the Shriners Hospitals located?

Locations of Shriners Hospitals for Children


Orthopaedic Hospitals: Shreveport, 1922; Honolulu, 1923; Twin Cities, 1923; San Francisco, 1923 (relocated to Sacramento in 1997); Portland, 1924; St. Louis, 1924; Spokane, 1924; Salt Lake City, 1925; Montreal, 1925; Springfield, 1925; Chicago, 1926; Philadelphia, 1926; Lexington, 1926; Greenville, 1927; Mexico City, 1945; Houston, 1952; Los Angeles, 1952; Erie, 1967; Tampa, 1985; Sacramento, 1997.

Burn Institutes: Galveston, 1963; Cincinnati, 1964; Boston, 1964.

Our newest hospital in Sacramento, California, provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care and serves as the Shriners' primary burn treatment center in the western United States.

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