Once a patient, Shriner wants to give back
Peachtree – Born prematurely at 27 weeks, Alex Parker was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just 8 months old. The local native is now 24 years old and has an incredible story to tell.
At 4 years old, Alex started receiving care and various surgeries from the Shriners Hospital in Greenville, S.C. This is one of 22 Shriners Hospitals that, thanks to the efforts of Shriners around the globe, offer treatment to children at no out-of-pocket cost to the families.
In many cases, treatment for a child includes providing the families’ transportation, housing and meals. The hospitals provide specialty care for children with orthopedic problems, burns, cleft palates, cleft lips and a variety of other accidental and birth problems.
Alex can remember having seven different surgeries for his cerebral palsy, including operations to lengthen his arms and hamstrings, tendon surgeries and utilizing different casts and braces along the way. Each surgery would aim to improve his muscle tone, movement and motor skills, all of which are hindered by cerebral palsy.
“The thing that helped me through all the surgeries was seeing the smiles of all the other kids,” Alex said.
While an average day involves a wheelchair and pump that provides medicine to his spine, Alex does not let it slow down his passion for wanting to give back.
From as early on as he can remember, Alex wanted to be a Mason. His grandfather, Ben Parker, is who he credits for his inspiration. Ben has been a Georgia Mason since 1973.
“He’s the reason I became a Mason. He has always been a big inspiration to me,” Alex said.
Working his way up to a third-degree Mason, Alex’s coach along the way was his grandfather.
“He learned so quickly, and he’s practically got a photographic memory,” Ben said.
To become a Shriner, Alex was required to become a Mason and earn the third-degree honor. He serves proudly as a part of the Clay Lodge 301, and Cherokee Lodge 146 of Masonry and remains active in his philanthropy.
Alex and his grandfather gained their rankings as a Shriner together about three months ago.
“I decided to become a Shriner because I knew it was something he wanted, and I wanted to be with him for it,” Ben said.
Before becoming a Shriner, Alex still organized a couple of fundraisers to benefit Shriners Hospital patients, including a bluegrass festival and car show in Murphy. Decked out in the signature fez hats, Alex and Ben experienced their first paper drive fundraiser as Shriners, and in just three hours at the Hayesville Ingles raised a whopping $3,000.
“I just want to make sure these
kids know that they are not the only ones who are going through it,” Alex said.
By becoming a Shriner, Alex has become the first person in a 50-year history of Greenville Shriners Hospital to have been a patient receiving care to becoming a Shriner who works hard to make sure other kids also benefit from excellent care.
“I just want to give back to the other kids and to the hospital by being a Shriner. It is such a great organization to be a part of,” Alex said.