140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Sunday, July 27, 2008

El Zaribah Shriners Respond

The chance to walk is a dream come true

Jul. 26, 2008, Arizona Republic News laurie. By roberts@arizonarepublic.com

Everybody says we're in trouble in this country, that we've lost our way. Every day in the news, we see yet another example (or two or three) that the value of humanity has hit rock bottom.

Turns out it's not true.

This I know, because a little girl named Maria is going to be given a chance to walk.

I wrote about Maria Humphrey on Wednesday. About how she's taken more hits in her brief four years than most of us could imagine. About how she's already exceeded some expectations and, God willing, will again. About how Maria wants to walk but the state has denied her the $5,000 in equipment that would give her that chance.

The responses started coming in at 6:14 a.m. on the day her story appeared. People offering to do research to find help. People offering a few dollars or a thousand. A 13-year-old girl named Angelique wanting to organize a fundraiser. A Gilbert man taking up a collection in his church. A medical equipment store offering help. And a retired police officer.

"I certainly know what it's like when you need specific equipment to try to 'be like others,' " the retired officer wrote. Indeed he does. He was put into a wheelchair by a drunken driver a few years ago while working to keep our streets safe.

Many of those who offered to help were like Daniel. "I am not a wealthy person," he wrote, "but the good Lord has treated me with kindness. Please let me know if I can make a donation or help in any other way to make Maria's life any better."

In a way, Daniel, you already have. If you know someone who has a disabled child, you know what it's like. The constant struggle to get what you need. The exhausting effort just to get through some days. The occasional feeling that you're alone in this battle to give your child just a taste of what comes so easily to other children.

The response to Maria's story should tell her parents, Cathy Humphrey and Manny Kritsotakis, that they are not alone.

Heck, even the state stepped up. Humphrey got word Wednesday morning that Care1st Health Plan Arizona and the state Division of Developmental Disabilities have decided to fund the $2,200 walker that Cathy requested last year. They again rejected the $2,700 stander, calling it a duplication of equipment.

As they were rejecting, however, the Shriners were responding. David Scrimager of the El Zaribah Shrine waved his magic wand and poof! Maria will get her stander. He seemed perplexed when I asked him why.

"This," he said, "is what we do."

In fact, the Shriners, with 22 children's hospitals across the nation, give away $2 million in equipment and services every day. The local chapter, El Zaribah, helps 1,930 children.

Including, now, Maria.

For all those people who want to help the Marias of this world, you can. The folks over at El Zaribah will gladly put your tax-deductible donation to good use. Just send it to 552 N. 40th St. Phoenix, AZ 85008, or call them at 602-231-0300.

As for Cathy Humphrey, she's astonished at the outpouring, and grateful. "I'm positive that Maria will be able to walk independently and even run and play with the other kids someday," she said. "I dream about it and I can see it."

I don't know if Maria will ever walk. I do know that she'll now be given the chance, which every child deserves.

Mary Wendland of Glendale can tell you. Her 4-year-old grandson has disabilities much like Maria's. He got a walker earlier this year, and every day he's improving.

"He has had 11 brain surgeries and has a shunt inserted in his brain. But because of my daughter's persistence and more than a dozen fantastic, dedicated doctors and therapists, he can perform a lot of functions that we were warned would not happen.

"Never give up on these children," she wrote. "They surprise us so much."
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