By Patsy Troutner
Special to The SUN
Pagosa Springs resident Richard Wholf was surprised at being named the 2019 Shriner of the Year by the San Juan Basin Shrine Club at its early Thanksgiving Dinner, Saturday, Nov. 2, held at the Durango-San Juan (Silverton) No. 47 Masonic Lodge building in Bodo Park, in Durango.
The award was to recognize Wholf for his dedication to the San Juan Basin Shrine Club and the success of its 2019 Shrine Raffle. Wholf pointed out that “… while I’m retired and on limited income, I have lots of time that I can use to raise money for the Shrine Hospitals for Children. I’ve been blessed to have met family members as well as children who have been helped through our hospitals. It takes amazing amounts of money to cover the medical expenses.”
There were 63 dinner attendees, representing Masons, Shriners and their wives from Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Durango, Mancos and Dolores; in addition, there were a number of Order of Eastern Star members from Pagosa, Bayfield, Durango and Mancos, as well as invited guests, including some first responders. While people often think of Shriners for their participation in local parades, the organization is best known for the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children that it administers and the red fezzes that members wear.
In the last three years, two children from Pagosa Springs have been sent to two of these hospitals, one to Sacramento, Calif., and one to Salt Lake City, Utah. While all the medical expenses of the child are covered by the Shrine, usually the family covers the travel expenses. However, in these two local cases, the local San Juan Basin Shrine Club covered the travel costs due to the particular medical needs of the children.
In addition, two years ago, the San Juan Basin Shrine Club donated $20,000 to the Salt Lake City Hospital. This year, with money from the club and donations from citizens and Four Corners businesses, a check for $10,000 will be going to the hospital.
The San Juan Basin Shrine Club is one of the eight Shrine Clubs which make up the Al Kaly Shriners headquartered in Pueblo, Colo. Al Kaly is pronounced “alkali.” Each year, the Al Kaly Shriners (as clowns, riding mules, being in bands or driving Tin Lizzies and other miniature vehicles) participate in 24-25 parades from May through November in Colorado communities and outlying towns.
Shriners International (of which Al Kaly is apart) is a nondenominational Masonic fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. There are approximately 350,000 members from nearly 200 lodges (aka temples) in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Bolivia, the Republic of Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Europe and Australia.