Madelyn was born without a left arm. Mahlia lost her feet in a fire. An infection left Kyndahl paralyzed. Alec was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone disease. Cristian’s parents took him to hospitals across the country before they finally found a diagnosis and treatment.
Larry was more lucky. Although it wasn’t discovered until he was starting to walk and his grandmother pointed out that, “he walks funny,” he had been born with bilateral congenital hip dislocation. Several months in a “frog cast” put them back in place. Later, at age 11, he developed Legg-Calve-Perthes in his left hip and would spend 18 months walking with crutches while wearing a bend-knee brace to keep pressure off that hip in hopes it might recover, which it did.
By the way, I’m that Larry and, actually, Madelyn, Mahlia, Kyndahl, Alec, Cristian and 1.4 million other children also were lucky because they found medical treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children, where that care is only one of the important benefits.
Another, and especially for their families, is that such treatment is offered without charge. But talk with Madelyn or Mahlia or Kyndahl or Alec or Cristian or Larry and they’ll tell you that for them, another important benefit was the lack of self-pity.
As a patient at Shriners you look around you and you see other children, children with conditions worse than yours. My legs may not have worked very well, but I had legs. Other children did not. Some didn’t have arms, either. And yet everyone — yes, with a lot of help and world-class care from the hospital staff — seems to find a way to compensate for his or her condition and to go on with their lives.
So what does all of this have to do with collector cars? Simply this: This past weekend, the team from ClassicCars.com was in Las Vegas to support the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, a professional golf tournament that raises awareness and funding for 22 hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico where children receive treatment for orthopedic issues, burns, spinal-cord injuries and cleft lip and palate.
Shriners International is a well-known fraternal order that founded its first hospital in 1922 because members saw a need to offer treatment for children who had contracted polio. Since then, they’ve built nearly two dozen additional hospitals and have established a telehealth care network so more children can be treated closer to their homes.
Alec, a 17-year-old high school senior, is Shriners Hospitals’ national spokesman and the star of a series of television commercials. To say he’s a remarkable young man is an obvious understatement.
Madelyn and Cristian are the national patient ambassadors. Mahlia and Kyndahl were among the “standard bearers” representing the hospitals where they receive their treatment. Like Alec, they are remarkable young men and women, and ClassicCars.com has been privileged to be involved with Shriners Hospitals and their benefactors for several years, leading tour groups through various collector car auction venues, such as the recent Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas sale, and, yes, contributing cash.
I can walk because of Shriners and their hospitals, and on Sunday I was invited to walk “inside the ropes” with Mahlia and Kyndahl and with Matt Jones and Collin Morikawa as the professional golfers played the final round of the tournament.
Walking “inside the ropes” is a rare privilege and has no parallel in professional sports. You cannot be on the field during a baseball, football or soccer game, on the court during basketball or tennis, or on the ice at a hockey game. But there we were, on the tee, walking down the fairways and while not on the greens, we were close enough to hear the conversations as golfer and caddie planned their shots.
But those aren’t the conversations I’ll remember from the weekend. What I’ll remember are the conversations with Alec and Cristian and Mahlia and Kyndahl and with some of their parents, and with another former patient and with a Shriner from Kentucky.
The Shriner from Kentucky spends his time and money taking children from his area to the hospitals where they receive treatment. He shared the story of a youngster who he had to carry to the car and then into the hospital for many months, for several years. But with tears in his eyes, he also told of the day when that youngster didn’t just walk out of the hospital, but came running to his arms.