When Andrew Kuo became a member of Shriners International, more specifically the Salaam Shriners of northern New Jersey, he did it to have fun. He wanted to be in a clown unit and make people laugh, and wasn’t thinking about the serious business that Shriners get up to. “Not many people join only to volunteer,” Andrew said. “Many do it for the fun and fellowship, but very quickly learn that the serious things we do are fun. Volunteering and helping others is fun.”
Shriners International is the fraternity that founded Shriners Hospitals for Children as its official philanthropy in 1922. The fraternity, which has nearly 200 chapters in several countries, and thousands of clubs around the world, continues to support this unique health care system.
Andrew is the current chairman of the Board of Governors for the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, and has learned quite a lot over the past year while leading the group through the pandemic.
Andrew’s first introduction to our hospital was in 2009 when he visited for the expanded board day celebration. He was so impressed with the hospital's mission during his tour that only three years later he became an associate board member. “Shriners’ mission became my personal mission,” he said.
He pushes that mission forward with a friendly face and an upbeat personality, even as the pandemic set in early last year. Andrew explained that looking toward the positives is what made him and the other board members think of new ways to solve old problems. “We didn’t know what to expect," he said, "but we found that having to learn new ways of doing things also made us come up with new and better solutions.”
Many of those new solutions in the early days of the pandemic meant going digital. Andrew said that he learned a lot quickly, bringing his skills into the 21st century. “Personally, I learned to e-sign documents,” he said. “I can use Skype, Zoom, and Teams now. I’m almost as cool as my kids.”
“We have not only survived the great challenge, but we also excelled,” Andrew said. “I learned that we could do things in many ways and succeed. We had the best year of fundraising in our history.”
Being a first-generation immigrant to the United States, Andrew said that he feels fortunate to have what he does today. “I get to make a living in America and do the human duty of helping others,” he said. But more importantly to him, he gets to have fun doing what he does. He said that his main objective on the board is to bring joy and fun to the serious work they do.
Moving forward in 2021, Andrew is optimistic about what our team will accomplish during the second year of his term. And although he has learned how to use Zoom, he looks forward to seeing the "Shriners Philly" family in person again. “I wish I’ll be able to see the hospital staff in person and thank each and every one for believing in us.”