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Essay Contest Winners Announced

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shriners International is pleased to announce the winners of our first Personal Essay Contest. All essays that met our qualifications were reviewed anonymously by a team of judges comprised of both Shriners and non-Shriners. There were many interesting and inspirational essays submitted and the final decision was difficult. Congratulations to the following Shriners on their award winning essays:

Guy Parker Hamilton
Medinah Shriners
Naperville, Illinois

Jonathan A. Karalekas
Araba Shriners
Naples, Florida

Kirk Pearson, Jr.
Zamora Shriners
Moundville, Alabama

Jerry S. Smith
Midian Shriners
Newton, Kansas

The full version of the essays will be featured in the Shriners International anniversary coffee table book which will be available at Imperial Session and online in July 2012, for a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children®. Essay winners will also be recognized during the Public Relations Report at Imperial Session on July 4, 2012, in Charlotte, NC. The temples of the winning essay writers will also receive a plaque acknowledging the winner and their temple.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all of you who took the time to reflect upon your life as a Shriner by writing an essay. By doing so, you are helping to preserve the rich history of our fraternity. We encourage you to participate in our Second Annual Shriners International Personal Essay contest for which we will begin accepting submissions for in late August. More details will follow in the coming months.

Submitted by Jonathan A. Karalekas, Araba Shriners:

“When I answered the phone call from my sister, I immediately knew by the sound of her voice that something was wrong. At that moment, she was in crisis mode, but there also was a strange sense of peace in her tone as if she knew the outcome was out of her control. We cried together as she told me what had happened. Her daughter, my godchild, had been in a terrible one car accident hours earlier on her way home from high school soccer practice, less than a mile from their home.”

... "What could I do? I did not need to go very far. After seeing what the Shriners Hospitals for Children did for my godchild and her family, from the medical care, the psychological care, the follow up, the numerous prosthetics, to witnessing the professionalism in which it was all administered, I knew I wanted to become a Shriner.”

Submitted by Guy Parker Hamilton, Medinah Shriners:

“I became a Shriner because my great grandfather was a Shriner. My family and I take great pride in that tradition. For me, like most of our members, the Shriners soon becomes about more than family tradition. The philosophy of the Shriners brilliantly embodies the motto; "having fun helping children". I have been truly changed by the internalization of the core values of the Shriner.”

... “It would be impossible for me to repay the Shriners for what they have taught me. Yes we ride in funny cars in parades, and wear silly hats, but what person wouldn't give up a weekend if they saw that little boy in the wheelchair and knew that these endeavors would get him the medical care he so desperately needs.”

Submitted by Kirk Pearson, Jr, Zamora Shriners:

“We sat at their kitchen table drinking coffee. While I sat there visiting, I saw the familiar picture of my grandparents on the wall. My grandfather was sitting there proudly wearing his fez and holding my grandmother’s hand. He smiled proudly as I told him my decision. I said, “Paw Paw, I think I’m going to join the Scottish Rite just like you.” He told me, ‘You won’t regret it, but what about the Shrine? You know we need a picture of you in a fez up there with us.’ I brushed him off saying I would get to it one day.”

... “We were sitting at the table drinking coffee when I told him I was going to be a Shriner within the week. He didn’t say a word. He just smiled. I wondered why things were so somber. He had been bringing this up for almost 20 years and didn’t say anything? Finally, my grandmother patted my hand and said, “Baby, if we’re going to get that picture made with ya’ll wearing fezzes, we better hurry because I’m not getting mine made unless you’re going to be the only bald-headed one in there.” My precious grandmother had been diagnosed with lung cancer.”

Submitted by Jerry S. Smith, Midian Shriners:

“I never thought that at 72 I would be writing another essay, but I have given this much thought and finally said, ‘Why not?’ since the Shriners and Shriners Hospitals for Children have given me so much….a life!”

... “Shriners Hospitals for Children took such unbelievable care of us kids. It was so much better than most could have ever gotten anywhere else. They really loved us. They kept telling me I was going to get better, and I rarely had any reason to doubt them.”

... “The feelings of gratitude I have, spurred me on to be a Shriner myself. I have served as the president of our local unit, and also have had the opportunity to drive young people to Shriners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis as a van driver.”