By Johnny Jackson
One small group of men is playing a pivotal role in the lives of area children.
On Friday, the 18-member Arabia Shrine Temple No. 7, in Locust Grove, donated $3,000 to the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation, the fourth such donation in as many years.
The organization raises money throughout the year to support various charitable callings. Through its fund-raising drives, Arabia Shrine Temple No. 7 helps support programs within the Henry County YMCA, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Henry County Special Olympics.
On Dec. 19, 2008, the organization gave $1,000 to the Therapeutic Division of the Henry County Parks and Recreation Department for its Special Olympics Program. Those annual funds help pay for enrichment activities, one of which is the program's involvement in this year's Special Olympics Georgia Indoor State Winter Games, Jan. 16-18, in Marietta.
Funds given to the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation will likely go to support the mission of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite in Atlanta, according to Greg Holliday, the foundation's senior development officer.
Scottish Rite, which specializes in childhood rehabilitation, is a part of the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta system, which provides care to thousands of children in the region. The system, which has 474 beds at three area children's hospitals, accounts for more than 572,000 patient visits and 24,000 hospital admissions each year.
"We rely a lot on individuals," Holliday said. "It plays a big part in the funds that we receive from individuals, corporations, and community organizations. The masons, in general, have been very supportive of us."
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta was recently listed among U.S. News & World Report's top pediatric hospitals, and was cited as one of the top three children's hospitals in the nation by Child magazine. The popular, and much-used, system incurs nearly $100 billion in un-reimbursed costs for care.
Donations, like those from Arabia Shrine Temple No. 7, are what help keep the system afloat, according to Holliday.
Fayetteville resident, Willie Hand, who has spent hours raising money for Children's Healthcare Atlanta, said he does not think much about the sacrifice in time and effort. "We just like to help people in need and give our time to help them," said Hand, a member of the Arabia Shrine Temple.
The organization also gives annually, on a statewide level, to help support the Greenbriar Children's Center in Savannah, hosting various drives during the year and organizing fund-raisers.
"It's a life-long effort," added Kenneth House, Georgia's Arabia Shrine Temple Grand Potentate.
Arabia Shrine Temple No. 7 Potentate Franklin Cochran said the organization has set this year's Children's Healthcare of Atlanta fund-raising goal at $4,000. He said he hopes to make the goal despite economic hard times.