Thirty-two-year-old Melinda Kykoz of Chipman, Alberta – a former patient at the Canadian Shriners Hospital in Montreal for 20 years - was hoping she’d be among those lucky Canadians to win one of the five wheelchair accessible vans being offered last month in a contest by the National Mobility Dealers Association during May’s “National Mobility Awareness Month.”
Jackie Rae Greening of CFCW Radio even launched a campaign to get as many votes as possible with the hopes of getting one of the vans to replace a 17-year-old one which is no longer roadworthy for wheelchair-bound Melinda who has Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, and has been looked after by grandparents John and Elsie Cooper since she was two. Grandpa John has been Melinda’s sole care giver after his wife died in 2009.
When Melinda and 82-year-old Grandpa John were unsuccessful in winning one of the five vans, Jackie Rae discussed that dilemma on the radio station at a time when Al Shamal Shriners Recorder Gary Willis was listening.
Willis then discussed the situation with Al Shamal President Larry Howard and the Al Shamal executive. They, and the Al Shamal membership, quickly agreed to donate the Shriners 2006 low mileage totally customized wheelchair accessible van inasmuch as it was not being fully utilized.
The keys to the van were presented to Melinda and her grandfather at the June dinner meeting of Al Shamal by Potentate Larry Howard in front of a large group of Shriners and members of Daughters of the Nile, who help support the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Melinda told the assembled Shriners and Daughters of the Nile that she had been associated with the Canadian Shriners Hospital from the age of two until she was 21.
“I was born with cerebral palsy,” said Melinda, “plus a rare condition where my right hip kept coming out of the socket. That’s when the Shriners came into my life. I had numerous unsuccessful surgeries until the 1990’s when Dr. Anne Marie Cantin of the Shriners Hospital in Montreal became a major part of my life and a person I will never forget.
“In the early 1990’s, Dr. Cantin and four other Shrine Hospital surgeons, worked in rotation for 12 hours, completely rebuilding my hip socket. I was in a body cast for six weeks and my Air Canada flight home required occupying three rows of seats.”
Melinda Kykosz said as far as the Shriners and the Canadian Shriners Hospital staff in Montreal are concerned: “You truly are all my angels“.
While the Shriners and the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children primarily help children get well up to the age of 18,” said Al Shamal President Larry Howard, “there are always exceptions where we have assisted those who are older. In the case of Melinda, she touched the hearts of all Shriners and we are delighted to provide her with this van. She is truly an inspiration to one and all, as is her grandfather, John Cooper.
“I would also be remiss”, added Howard, “in not commending the Shriners Hospital in Montreal, and their incredible staff, for the medical care they provided Melinda for two decades, as well as countless other patients from Edmonton and Northern Alberta for the last 67 years since the Edmonton Shrine Club was established in 1946 and then expanded to Al Shamal in 1985.
Howard said Al Shamal is also aware of other organizations in need of assistance. Such as establishing a first ever in North America $3-million Shriners Pediatric Scoliosis Research Chair at the University of Alberta Hospital with the Alberta Government contributing $1.5 million; donating $20,000 towards The Fallen Four RCMP park at Mayerthorpe; providing $50,000 to save Grande Prairie’s Camp Tamarack for the Disabled from being closed; establishing a Shriners wing at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital to assist Shrine patients and other children.
Al Shamal and the Shriners also established artificial skin banks for the University Hospital and other Alberta and Canadian hospitals with burns centres, as well as providing transportation for patients with orthopaedic problems or burn injuries, plus a parent, to any of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“Helping sick kids get well has always been our motto for the last 91 years that
Shriner Hospitals have been operating,” said Howard, “including the current 100 active patients Al Shamal now have. And if that sick individual happens to be over 18 - as Melinda Kykosz is - she or he, will receive that same kind of love, care and attention as all patients.”
For further information, contact:
Bruce Hogle, Shriners International
Public Relations Department
Phone (H) 780 487 4566 (C) 780 996 3246