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Shriners International Appeals to All Ages

Walter Breuning, George MitchellThe Shriners fraternity has always had the ability to attract honorable men of all ages – men like Walter Breuning.

This past February Imperial Potentate George Mitchell traveled to Great Falls, Mont., to meet with then-114-year-old Walter Breuning, who was the oldest living man and Shriner. He was a member for more than 60 years and was president of the Great Falls Shrine Club. Noble Breuning passed away In April; we are all saddened by the loss of our great friend, and grateful to have known him for so many years.

During his visit with the Imperial Potentate, Breuning said the main reason he decided to become a Shriner was his strong desire to help others, especially the children at the hospitals. That desire remained strong throughout the years. In 2009, in recognition of his 50 years of service to the railroad and to honor him on his 113th birthday, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation surprised Breuning with a $50,000 donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children®, on his behalf. Breuning asked that the money be given to Algeria Shriners’ Hospital Patient Transportation Fund. He especially wanted to assist the Great Falls Shrine Club, which comes under the jurisdiction of Algeria Shriners, with its patient transportation efforts

During the visit, Breuning was asked about the most important lesson of his long life. He replied, “People should help each other and work together more.” Breuning’s advice is something all of us can try to incorporate into our daily lives.

The website beashrinernow.com was created to recruit new members who will carry on the legacy of inspirational men like Noble Breuning, Statistics prove the website is helping the fraternity reach a younger demographic more effectively, given that the most recurring age for these new members has been 32. This number seems to bode well for Shriners, since one of the fraternity’s founders, Walter Fleming, M.D., was the same age when he developed the concept of the Shriners fraternity.

To further demonstrate the fraternity’s appeal to young men, we have recently added younger members, including 18-year-old Nicholas Hetrick of Zembo Shriners in Harrisburg, Pa. Nicholas grew up knowing about the fraternity through his grandfather, a Shriner.

For Nicholas, the most rewarding benefit of being a Shriner is the opportunity to positively influence people’s lives. He believes if more people his age would visit our hospitals and see first-hand the remarkable work we do for children, it would help membership and recruitment.

Nicholas is currently a senior at Newport High School and plays on the wrestling and baseball team. When he’s not participating in sports, you can find Nicholas with a fishing pole with his hand.

By continuing to raise interest in and awareness of Shriners International through new membership initiatives such as the website beashrinernow.com, we look forward to adding more fine young men like Nicholas to the “world’s greatest fraternity.”