When Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California opened in the spring of 1997, Gary Kiddie took a tour. He knew immediately he wanted to be part of something really big, something really special.
So the longtime Mason, a proud member of the oldest fraternity in the world, added something extra to his life – he became a Shriner.
“Being a Shriner means having a purpose in life,” says Kiddie, who is a member of the Ben Ali Shrine. “I sincerely believe the Good Lord put me on earth to serve him and my fellow man. Being a Shriner means having a cause that is truly worthwhile. I can’t think of a more rewarding experience than making a positive difference in a child’s life.”
In 1998, Kiddie began his volunteer service at the Northern California Shriners Hospital. He started in the outpatient clinic where he first met some of the patients and patient families whose stories touched his heart. He jumped at the chance to fill a need in the transport of children to-and-from their appointments and joined fellow Shrine drivers on the transportation team. Despite the demands of his business, he also found time to give hospital tours.
Snapshots of Kiddie’s years of service at the Northern California Shriners Hospital could fill a scrapbook, but for him it’s not about honors or rewards that can be put on paper.
“Seeing children overcome their physical problems is the most rewarding part of being a Shriner hospital volunteer,” Kiddie says. “It’s an emotional, uplifting experience. And there are so many touching memories throughout the years. I love the Christmas Eve surprise. In fact, one time my curiosity got the better of me, and I came to the hospital after midnight just to see where all the snow comes from.”
Christmas morning is just one of the hospital events that finds Kiddie annually on duty as a volunteer. He joins fellow Shriners and their families in a Christmas morning parade led by the Shrine Mounted Patrol, which delivers Santa to the hospital in a horse-drawn carriage.
In addition to his work at the hospital, Kiddie has a long list of Shrine events and activities he supports. Halloween and Easter parties, carnival, runs and walks, bowling, and golf tournaments are among the many activities organized by Shriners to support children at the hospital.
“One of the most rewarding experiences is having someone walk up to you and thank you for what we do at Shriners Hospital,” says Kiddie, who stresses the importance of wearing the fez.
“It may sound like a lot of work, but there are so many Shriners that put in so much time here — and they love it,” Kiddie says. “You know, these children put us to shame. What they accomplish — with the help of Shriners doctors, nurses and staff — is truly miraculous. I am honored to be a small part of it.”