MONTE VISTA — The local Sand Dunes Shrine Club is responsible for bringing the Shrine Circus to the Valley. Without the public’s purchase of Shrine Circus tickets, the Sand Dunes Shrine Club could not continue to help San Luis Valley children get to Shriner Hospitals.
Twenty-two Shriner Hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Children up to age 18 can apply for admission to a Shriner Hospital. Generally, Valley children travel to Galveston, Texas, for burn treatment or to Salt Lake City for bone treatment.
Others, like 12-year-old Urianna Acosta from Monte Vista, are sent to specialty hospitals. She has been going to one in Philadelphia where she will return in August for an eight-month stay. Retractors will be placed on her legs and feet to straighten them. She plans to return home using a walker.
Acosta was born with a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenta (AMC), a stiffening of the bones that affects about 1 in 3,000 individuals. Thanks to the efforts of world renowned Dr. Harold vanBosse, who is working with her at the Philadelphia Shriner Hospital, she is well on her way to a much more active life style. Proceeds from the Shrine Circus are helping her with transportation needs.
According to the Shriners International website, “Shriners International is a fraternal organization of men who are dedicated to brotherhood, compassion and service to others…. The vision for Shriner Hospitals is to become the best at transforming children’s lives by providing exceptional healthcare through innovative research, in a patient and family centered environment.”
During the summer months Sand Dunes Shrine Club members riding three wheelers and wearing their tall crimson-colored Shrine hats (known as a fez) can be seen parading with “Charlie”, a San Luis Valley parade favorite for over half a century. Mounted on top of a car frame, “Charlie” is a giant replica of a Shriner wearing his fez. The Sand Dunes Shrine Club parades throughout southern Colorado to draw attention to their cause – helping children with medical transportation costs.
The Sand Dunes Shrine Club members are grateful to Ronnie Martinez, owner of Mountain View Restaurant who has served them lunch on circus day, at no cost to them, for many years. The efforts of those businesses who sell circus tickets is appreciated as well as all those who have bought tickets and those who come to the circus, especially the children. The Sand Dunes Shrine Club members are deeply grateful to ALL who support their efforts year after year.
“I really appreciate the Shriners,” said Linda Archuleta, Acosta’s grandmother who has raised her since she was 3. “People need to know they have specialty doctors and they’re the best doctors in the world. What we are experiencing is just unreal. I can truly say our experience has been one of the most awesome experiences we have ever had — the people we have met, the treatment, the bedside manner — it’s all about the children.”
To investigate patient referral eligibility, call 1-800-237-5055 or for contact information about Shriners, call 1-800-241-4438 or call local Shriner Dick Smith at 719-849-1571 or his wife Sue at 719-849-1970.
Caption: Sand Dunes Shrine members, Foster Carr, Tom Sanderson (vice president), Bailee Velasquez (newest Shrine member), Dennis Shepherd (circus coordinator) and Ernie Kuney (president) present flags from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colorado and the Shriners. Courtesy photo by Margaret Sanderson