Shriners Hospitals Could Be Closing Doors for Good


by: Kristen Guilfoos

They've been providing free medical care to children for nearly a century, but several Shriners hospitals could soon be closing their doors for the final time. One of those facilities is the one in Galveston, and closing that would mean big changes for area children who need their help.

There are 22 Shriners hospitals across the nation. Six of them now sit on the chopping block...waiting to find out if they will become the latest victims of a struggling economy.

At Tuesday's Shriners meeting in Amarillo, it was all about fun and games. But at their next meeting in San Antonio, the mood will be much more somber. Amarillo Khiva Shriners Potentate Horace Melton says, "We might have to close some hospitals, not because we want to but from a financial standpoint."

A financial situation that means children like Danny Love's grandson, who was born without hands or feet, will no longer be able to take advantage of in-state facilities like gGeston. Melton says, "We would have to fly them to the burn unit in California, at four times the expense, which means somewhere around $20,000 or $25,000."

Melton says that will put a huge burden on the local chapter, but they're vowing to find a way to continue helping the children who need them most. "If it takes us all wearing these funny hats standing out on the street corner every weekend that's what we'll do."

After seeing how much Shriners changed the life of his grandson, Danny decided to put on one of those funny hats himself. "When he came along, it really hit home. I decided to give back after how much they've given to us."

Problem is, there are not enough people out there like Danny... And that makes fund raising that much harder.

Melton says, "Now we barely have 1000 members. At one time we had 4000, maybe 5000." The final vote on whether or not to close the hospitals will be made the first week in July.