Longtime Shriners and new initiates alike are coming from B.C., Yukon and as far the U.S. as the annual spring ceremonial returns to Penticton for the second year in a row.
The conference, taking place May 29 and 30 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort is hosting the annual spring ceremonial for those becoming new Shriners and a parade down Lakeshore Drive.
“Normally it’s held in different places, but everybody was so happy with Penticton last year they wanted to know if they could do it again,” said Louise Hennig, a spokesperson for the Gizeh Shriners of B.C. and Yukon said.
The Shriners, usually identified by their distinct Fez hats, have a history of service to children and their families dating back to 1870. The organization is known for it’s philanthropy in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico with 22 hospitals and nearly 4 million Shriners around the world. Shriners Hospitals for Children are funded, built and run by the Shriners and provide care in specialty areas including orthopaedics, burn care, spinal cord injury, cleft pallets. The hospitals also provide education and promote research.
While the Shriners participate in local charities year round, the spring ceremonial is a time for them to welcome new initiates and shake hands with some old ones.
The head of the Shriners in North America, or the Imperial Potentate, Dale Stauss, is attending the ceremonial as well as the potentate for B.C.-Yukon Shriners Dan Mellor, who is hosting the ceremony.
“You meet your friends, people you met from last year, it’s fun,” said Jerry Ingleby, who has been with the Shriners for 44 years.
Ron Champken, a fellow Shriner, said he joined a few years ago because the groups philanthropic interests aligned with his own.
“Before that I’ve done volunteer work as a firefighter. It has always been at the forefront of my mind, helping out kids,” Champken said.
He said Shriners help children receive medical care no matter the cost.
“Anybody’s child, your brother, my grandson, whoever. It doesn’t depend on the family’s ability to pay or not. We’ll transport them to the hospital,” Champken said. “We’ll pick them up if we have to, fly them to the hospitals, if you need to fly to Montreal we’ll do that too. It’s just something that we do as Masons and Shriners.”
Though he is only a few years removed from his initiation ceremony, one that 26 new candidates are set to take part in over the weekend, Champken said he can’t reveal the details. The ceremony is secretive and only open to the Shriners.
However, all are welcome to the parade on May 30 which starts at 9:30 a.m. at the SS Sicamous. The parade will feature floats from the Shriners, Penticton Royalty Miss Penticton and some classic cars as well.