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Anah Shriners aim to help children during annual clinic in Presque Isle

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Serving children who lack access to specialized medical care in Aroostook County is an important mission that the Aroostook Shrine Club strives to fulfill, according to Alan Cleaves, local Anah Shrine member and organizer of this year’s screening clinic in Presque Isle.

“We’ve probably served over 250 children at our clinics since we started doing them in the early 80s,” Cleaves said at the start of Saturday’s clinic.

The Aroostook Shrine Club is one of eight regional chapters of the Anah Temple Shrine, based in Bangor. Shrine clubs around the state held clinics throughout the day Saturday, including in Presque Isle, Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Belfast, Calais, Ellsworth and Machias. Parents and guardians were able to bring children under age 18 for screenings by a family nurse practitioner between 9 a.m. and noon at no cost.

Families who attended the clinics gained access to further medical resources, such as at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield or Boston, Massachusetts. The Springfield hospital treats children with orthopedic and neuromusculoskeletal disorders and diseases while the Boston location specializes in the treatment of severe burn injuries and skin conditions.

Funds raised through Anah Shriners philanthropy, including the organization’s annual circus performances, help cover families’ transportation, lodging and meal expenses during hospital visits. They also offer free airplane trips to the Boston hospital through the Patient AirLift Services program.

Bobbi Jo Robins of Caribou brought her daughter Elizabeth Robbins, 8, who has shown early signs of scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that most often forms during childhood.

“We found out about the clinic through the nurse at Elizabeth’s school,” Bobbi Jo Robins said. “It was helpful for us to come here and I think we’ll be taking advantage of some of the Shriners’ resources in the future.”

Victoria Bruce, also of Caribou, recently moved to Aroostook County from Connecticut with her daughter Madison Bruce, and came to the clinic for a consultation regarding a foot injury that Madison has.

“She hasn’t received a diagnosis yet, and so we decided to come to the Shriners clinic because so far no one has been able to help us,” Victoria Bruce said. “We’ll definitely be in touch with them going forward.”

Although the screening clinics only occur once a year, typically a week after the Anah Shrine Circus, families can contact the Shriners Club any time with questions regarding medical treatment and services.

“I’ve been volunteering here since the early years of the clinic,” said Mary Coffin, family nurse practitioner for The Aroostook Medical Center. “We’ve seen families come back in tears because they’re so thankful that their child can actually have a back brace that fits or that they’ve actually had the services they need to become more independent.”

Those who would like more information on Shriners hospitals and medical assistance can contact Cleaves at (207) 769-9852.

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