DES MOINES, Iowa — For past 20 years, the smiling faces of Central Iowa Shriners have been a welcomed staple to Iowa State Fair goers. “Tired legs, you know people are tired by the end of the day,” said E. Jay Coon, the 2018 Potentate for the Za-Ga-Zig Shrine in Altoona.
That helpful smile behind the golf carts which run twelve hours a day during the fair, is much more than ‘Iowa nice’, Coon says the rides are helping save children’s lives. “Most of the time, whatever they can give goes a long way and helps us because that helps a kid that otherwise wouldn’t have health care.”
The Shriners Hospital’s mission is to treat all patients regardless of their families’ ability to pay. Coon said, “Kids don’t deserve a bad break. That two dollars or five dollars or sometimes you get lucky and someone gives you a twenty.” A small amount with a big impact. “Whether they need a leg straightened or arms or any kind of limb. Once again the best pediatric orthopedic in the world for children,” said Coon.
Simple rides for weary legs at the state fair are giving life to children not just in Iowa but internationally. “Recently, we had eight children burned as a result of a volcano in Guatemala. Of those eight, six were in critical condition,” Coon said.
As they drive families back and forth day after day, their passion for children is what drives them to continue on. “It gives you a sense of worthwhile, peace of mind,” said Coon.
A recent story from a western Iowa Shriner whose grandson caught on fire in a Kansas City garage is a driving force for Coon today. “He came out in flames and his mom put him out. He said within twenty-four hours there was a plane to take my grandson to the burn hospital in Galveston and that`s why you are a Shriner. That is just one story.” The power of a dollar.
All donations made to the Shriners at the Iowa State Fair goes towards the hospitals and the children’s transportation. The closest Shriners Hospital is in Minneapolis, Minnesota.