They’re famous throughout the world for their colorful red fezzes, little parade cars, vibrant and exuberant personalities, and their cherished work on behalf of children, but Tampa lays claim to them as their “home,” no matter where members of the Shriners International fraternity hail from.
Tampa is where the corporate headquarters of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children is located, and this year, the city will host the 142nd Imperial Session of Shriners International – the organization’s annual convention. The annual business meeting and gathering of the international fraternity attracts thousands of Shriners from nearly 200 chapters in seven different countries. With the theme, “Welcome Home to Tampa,” this session will run from July 3–7, with events taking place at and near the Tampa Convention Center.
The last time thousands of Shriners and their families were in Tampa for an Imperial Session was in 2006. Now a decade later, the Shriners are back with their competitions, celebrations, meetings, their largest parade of the year in Ybor City, and a special Walk for LOVE benefiting the local Shriners Hospitals for Children.
In 1978, Shriners International voted overwhelmingly to move their headquarters from Chicago to Tampa. Now a part of the Tampa landscape, Shriners International is home to the leadership of the fraternity and philanthropy, including hundreds of talented individuals committed to the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children.
In addition to being the home of Shriners International headquarters, which is located on the causeway at Rocky Point, Tampa boasts a local chapter, Egypt Shriners, located on Dana Shores, as well as Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, on the campus of the University of South Florida. The Tampa Bay connection does not end there, the East-West Shrine Game college all-star football game has been played in the Bay Area (Tropicana Field) since 2012 and it is one of Shriners Hospitals for Children’s signature events to raise awareness of the health care system.
For nearly a century, members of Egypt Shriners have made a positive impact on the Tampa Bay community, parading their fraternal spirit, as well as supporting the community and their philanthropy, Shriners Hospitals for Children. They also provide leadership and volunteer service to the hospital, including transportation for patients to Shriners Hospitals for Children locations as needed.
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa has provided expert orthopaedic specialty care to nearly 60,000 children since opening in 1985. The hospital recently celebrated 30 years of providing life-changing care regardless of the families’ ability to pay, while its medical teams continue to innovate its care, collaborate with health care providers and offer new service lines to meet the health care needs of children in our community.
This year’s Imperial Session is planned to be a major celebration of the legacy of brotherhood, fun and philanthropy the fraternity has enjoyed and shared in their communities for generations. At the end of the event, Chris Smith, from Olive Branch, Mississippi, will be installed as the Imperial Potentate, the top international officer of the organization.