Beyond clowns, red tasselled hats, and little motorcycles, Shriners is a philanthropic organization providing paediatric health care for children without regard to race, colour, creed, sex, sect, disability, national origin or ability of a patient or family to pay.
Including guests, a delegation of more than 300 of this popular branch of the Freemasons will be gathering in Williams Lake this week for the Shriners of BC-Yukon Spring Ceremonial 2016.
They have a busy three-day convention planned, says local longtime Shriner Tom Barr.
Activities will move to various venues around the city each day and include participating Saturday in a Shrine Parade, and sending about a dozen clowns to entertain at the annual Children’s Festival in Boitanio Park.
Delegates register Thursday evening at the Tourism Discovery Centre with a meet and greet to follow at the Ramada Inn’s Overlander Convention Centre.
Friday the meetings move to the Gibraltar Room during the day and to the Elks Hall in the evening for a barbecue dinner and dance.
Saturday evening, after the parade and Children’s Festival during the day, the delegates gather at Thompson Rivers University for the installation of officers and new members, guest speakers and a formal dinner, dance and auction.
Barr says three of the bigger auction items include a log bench donated by Pioneer Log Homes of B.C., a helicopter ride donated by Wayne Peterson, and antiques donated by Blackbird Antiques and Collectibles.
Ab Newman will be the auctioneer.
Later Saturday night the party moves to the Coast Hotel’s hospitality suite.
“The Shriners’ main involvement besides having fun, is raising money to operate 22 Shrine children’s hospitals in North America,” says Barr in bringing attention to a short history of how the Shriners got their start.
Shriners started in Manhattan, New York in 1870 when a few Freemasons were sharing a drink at their favourite tavern.
They felt that Masonry, which traces its roots to stonemasons and craftsmen of the Middle Ages and who built the great churches of Europe, was a bit too focused on ritual.
Instead they wanted a fraternity that stressed fun and fellowship, not to replace Masonry, but to add to it.
All Shriners are Masons, but not all Masons are Shriners, he notes.
When Shriners international was first founded in 1872, the organization built on the principles that guided Freemasonry, while adding an element of fun and philanthropy that set Shriners apart.
Locally, Gizeh Shriners of BC-Yukon started in Victoria on June 11, 1902 and now represents the largest geographical jurisdiction in the Shriners organization.
In 1942, Gizeh headquarters moved from Victoria to Vancouver and to Burnaby in 1968. There are now more than 80 clubs and units affiliated with Gizeh throughout B.C. and Yukon. These include the Williams Lake/100 Mile House branch.
Internationally, the Shriners head office is located in Tampa, Florida and there are approximately 309,000 Shriners throughout the U.S. Canada, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Panama.