Shriners Keep On Keeping On

Shriners are never far from a good cause, even at Scotia Speedworld

On the phone with Shriner Mike Schmid, he was quick to establish the fraternal foundation of the Shriners. You must be a Freemason, often just called the Masons.  In its present form, the Masons have been around for 305 years 

; much older in many other capacities dating back to the 13th century.  Recognized by their red fez and long tassels. For many, the sight evokes memories of parades when the cars and bikes arrived. Always circling down the route and with a few characters in tow. Usually a clown or two. 

As the public face of the Masons, the Shriners are well know for their ability to raise awareness, resources and money for children. Shriner hospitals and health clinics can be found in almost every corner of the world. It is said judge an organization on their results, the Shriner’s have a lot to show, the Shriners achieve results. No family can visit the Isaac Walton Killam (IWK) Hospital for women and children in Halifax without becoming aware of the Shriners generous contributions and efforts to help children smile.

For over 27 years there has been a Shriner presence at the Scotia Speedworld in Halifax, N.S.. The speedway stands at the entry to Halifax for most visitors to the province coming by car or plane. You can’t miss it. It stands as it did when it opened the gates to racers and fans in 1987. In 1997 Mike, some friends and other Shriners started the Shriner Street Stock Classic; now known as the Shriners Classic Sportsman 50. It was a natural evolution from years on the track and racing for these Shriners. The name is not the only thing that has changed over the years. New name, rules and feel. However, ask anyone around the track about the big races and it will include the Shriner Classic. Names on the prestigious trophy including Gordie Ryan, James Graves, Russell Smith Jr, and the late Terry Roma to name a few, have all won the race at least once. 

There is even a dash of intrigue at the track and among Shriners. What happened to the original trophy, the one holding the glass ball? The original trophy long gone, and yes, new rules to protect the new trophy but the legends live on. Mike started listing off the Shriner race winners from decades ago up to now. All I could do was listen to his story and hear his passion. The same passion I felt the first night at the Speedworld this year when my 50/50 selling Shriner approached and asked, “What type of truck?” I am not sure he was happy with my choice. What could I say? My old 1990 Toyota Hilux twin cab took me to many corners of Africa those years I lived and worked there.

This relationship, no, this partnership, has grown over the decades. For the last 25 years, the Shriners have shown up night after night to run the 50/50. That is correct, race after race for 25 years. Their efforts last season raised over $13,000. 

Scotia Speedworld General Manager Ken Cunning spoke so passionately about the Shriners. He said on race weeks there is a huge list of stuff to take care of, but the 50/50 is not on the list. “The Shriners run it all… I don’t have to think about it.” 

The Shriners do age. I know, many say they are as young as ever. To reinforce the ranks the model continues to be sustainable; the Freemasons attract new members every year. A great organization to recruit new Shriners. Some after years of service and training can even be clowns in parades.

The partnership is based on many relationships built on trust and accountability. A web of relationships as found in many successful organizations and partnerships in Atlantic Canada and around the world. As Ken noted: “The relationships with the Shriners make the partnership work.” Not to mention history, laws, money, fun, and above all else, the cause.  The Speedworld’s share of the 50/50 is donated to the IWK’s Remedial Seating Program. 

Next time you buy a 50/50 from a Shriner volunteer, take a moment to thank them for all they do to make our communities a better place to call home.

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