A lifetime of care lands local man atop Shriners
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – The appointment to Shriners Imperial Potentate, or chief executive, is another step in a journey that started in grade school for Cornelius resident Alan Madsen.
The memory of the Shriners taking the fifth- and sixth-graders from Manistee, Mich., by train to Grand Rapids for the Shrine Circus was clear in his mind when he and his wife, Jan, moved to Charlotte in the 1970s. They saw the local Shriners in the Circus Parade, and Madsen told his wife that he was going to be one of them.
The Shriners run 22 hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to provide orthopedic and burn care to children under the age of 18, regardless of their ability to pay.
Alan Madsen is a member of the Oasis Shriners in Charlotte, and Jan is a Daughter of the Nile.
“As Al’s life became more involved with Shrine, mine did too,” Jan Madsen said.
The Daughters of the Nile raise money and supplies for hospitals, like blankets, special clothing to fit around healing surgeries and, recently, Wii consoles and games to help children rehabilitate without realizing they’re working, Jan Madsen said.
Since the Shriners opened their first hospital in Shreveport, La., in 1922, they have treated and permanently discharged more than 1 million children.
“We truly work miracles in our hospitals,” Alan Madsen said.
The Madsens have personally connected with patients like Megan Johnson and stayed in touch after recovery.
Johnson, now 20 years old, was born in South Korea, adopted by American parents and received 28 surgeries at Shriners Hospitals for a skeletal deformity.
“While she’s had those surgeries, she has an indomitable spirit to take care of others,” Jan Madsen said.
Johnson won a Jefferson Award this year and just returned from South Korea where the government recognized her for her charitable work. Johnson raises money to help the homeless and has started a prison ministry in which prisoners knit hats for the less fortunate.
The Madsens met Eddie Warren at the Shrine Lobster Bowl in Maine in July. Warren, now 19 years old, received two leg prostheses from Shriners Hospitals as a child. He’s now a standout all-star in every sport, Jan Madsen said. Warren stole the show with a 42-yard field goal.
Another former patient, Mollie Carlson, underwent 22 surgeries with the Shriners to repair a cleft pallet. Carlson will graduate from Fort Hays State University in May, 2012. Her treatment incorporated many different disciplines, from surgeries to dental work and therapies. Carlson is pursuing a graduate degree in speech pathology, a specialty that played a large role in her recovery.
Brady Whipple lives in Cornelius with his mom, Jackie, and dad, Jason. The 3-year-old was born without bones below his knees and received prosthetics from the Greenville Shriners Hospital.
“And boy does he move around,” Jan Madsen said.
The Whipples accompanied Jan and Alan Madsen to see Gov. Bev Purdue in Raleigh last week, when the governor made a declaration recognizing Shrine Week, coming in July.
The Madsens decided five years ago to bring the annual Shriners meeting to Charlotte, a goal they will fittingly see come to fruition when Madsen is installed as Imperial Potentate. The Shrine parade on July 4 will feature clowns and tiny motorcorps from temples across the country.
The horse guard competition showcase will be at Latta Plantation.
For a complete schedule of Shrine week events, visit www.Imperial2012.com.
As Imperial Potentate, Madsen aims to improve hospital finances and technology.
“We’re the best kept secret because we don’t do a lot of national advertising,” Madsen said. “But we need to do that.”
Madsen will continue expanding Shriners fundraising efforts, including Shrine circuses and golf tournaments. Locally, the NFL/Shriners’ golf classic has raised close to $2 million over five years. Participants pay to play with NFL legends at Lake Norman area golf courses, including The Peninsula, Verdict Ridge and River Run.
“I’m hoping through fraternal and hospital strategic planning that we can enhance both revenue generating for the hospitals and increased membership on the fraternal side,” Madsen said.
They recently launched www.BeAShrinerNow.com, which connects interested potential Shriners to mentors. Madsen hopes to grow efforts like this through a strategic plan to increase membership. The Shriners have charters in Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Germany, and hope to charter temples in Paris, London and Vienna in the next two to five years.
“You’ll never find a greater circle of lifetime friends,” Alan Madsen said of Shriner membership. “Where can you have so much fun doing so much good?”