GREENSBURG — As part of “Kid’s Helping Kids,” the Decatur County Shriners, some pretty goofy Shriner Clowns and St. Mary’s Elementary students by the score gathered Friday morning in the St. Mary’s School gymnasium to tally up aluminum pop tabs and just “clown around.”

“We dub this ‘Kids Helping Kids’” said Shrine Club Secretary Mark Scudder. “For the last two or three years, the kids bring in their pop tabs. We sell those pop tabs and that money goes to help the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital,” Scudder said. “The kids get really excited about this, and St. Mary’s rewards the class that brings in the most tabs, so it’s good and fun for everyone!”

Pop tabs

“The class that brings in the heaviest amount [of pop tabs] will win a little treat from the school,” Scudder said. “We do this twice a year, right before Christmas break and then at the end of the school year. We’d like to extend that to North and South Decatur and Greensburg elementaries soon.”

In early 1920, a committee of Shriners decided that some kind of charitable entity for helping children should be established as their mission. A hospital was suggested, and then it was decided that not just a hospital, but an entire network of hospitals throughout North America was necessary.

So, after much deliberation and fundraising, the first Shriners Children’s Hospital was built in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Time passed, Shrine clubs across the country worked hard at fundraising, and eventually a single hospital turned into 22 Shriners hospitals across the United States. They comprise a network of healthcare facilities for children, and they all operate at no cost to a child or the child’s family.

Shriners hospitals specialize in orthopaedic care, treating injuries and problems of the bones, joints and muscles. Four hospitals specialize in providing medical treatment to kids with burn injuries, conducting reconstructive and restorative surgeries on kids with healed burns; treating burns that limit mobility and that cause deformities.

Three Shriners hospitals treat spinal cord injuries and provide long-term rehabilitation and intensive physical, occupational and recreational therapies for kids with spinal cord issues.

In 2005, Shriners Hospitals for Children officially established a cleft lip and palate program. Services in these programs include surgery, orthodontics, hearing, speech and psychological therapies for children suffering facial abnormalities from incident or birth.

All these hospitals perform their services based on one thing: a child’s’ need.

No money is ever billed to or accepted from a child or their parents; the services are funded by just one thing, the hard work of Shriners throughout the world.

Men such as astronaut Buzz Aldrin, golfer Arnold Palmer, country singer Brad Paisley, race car driver Sam Hornish Jr. and Wendy’s Dave Thomas all have worn the fez, the iconic hat with the tassel emblematic of the saluted group.

Shriner clubs are also often associated with clowns due to the popularity of the Clown Units members of the organization have embraced throughout the years.

Friday’s event was attended by for such Shriner clowns.

Yawgrnorw the clown was present. When asked about his name, he explained it’s simply wrong way spelled backwards!

The group was asked if recent popular movies were making more children afraid of clowns.

“Well, I know they scare me!” Wrongway spelled backwards answered.

Wrongway spelled backwards was actually Indianapolis native Phil Christie, who has been a Shriner clown for “about 20 years.”

“I’m not professional, but I clown for Shriners at about 30 to 50 events a year. We clown at the hospitals, at the races, and anywhere there are children,” he said.

He admitted that children are sometimes afraid of him at first, but most eventually come around.

Friday’s event netted 114.5 pounds of aluminum pop tabs from St. Mary’s Elementary students.

At press time, aluminum was selling at $.90 per pound. That’s $103.05 donated to Shriners Hospitals for Children – despite all the clowning around.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email at bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com.