For most Canadian kids, playing hockey is a given.
But for some, playing hockey poses a bigger challenge, and the Shriners are helping to make playing hockey or achieving any dream a little less difficult.
Brandon Drury, 12, is one hockey player who is thankful for the Shriners Care Cruiser buses.
“They’re really good,” said Drury, a goalie with the Upper Deck Vees, a Penticton special-needs hockey team, of the specially equipped buses.
Drury is a long-time New York Rangers fan and watches his idol Henrik Lundqvist whenever he can.
Even if he isn’t watching hockey, it is always on Brandon’s mind.
“When he is sleeping, he dreams of hockey,” said his mother Jackie Hooper.
Drury was born with Vacterl Syndrome, a spinal birth defect that resulted in his right side being taller than his left side.
He has had surgery almost once year, said his mother, including to place rods in his back. Those trips to Vancouver were made through the Shriners Care Cruiser buses.
“The Care Cruisers have helped us so many times, especially during winter. Brandon cannot sit for long periods of time and the amenities within the coach – including beds and La-z-Boy chairs – make the trip much more comfortable for him,” said Hooper.
“And then there’s the kindness of the drivers and the other families we meet on board.
“The drivers will even pull over when he has to get out and move around.”
For Hooper, a single mom and busy student in early childhood education, the Care Cruisers have been vital to Drury’s care and progress.
Another benefit, said Hooper, is the Care Cruiser buses also provide Drury with an opportunity to socialize and develop friendships with other kids with disabilities. Hooper is extremely grateful for the ease and economy provided by this free service whose buses are specially designed to transport children and youths with disabilities to Vancouver health care facilities from locations throughout B.C.
One of the Care Cruiser bus drivers is the grandfather of a former Penticton Vees team member.
“We talk about hockey,” Drury said of his conversations with the driver.
Although he will be benched and restricted to a wheel chair for eight to nine months when he has his next back surgery next December, Drury is still dreaming of a full hockey career.
“I want to get really good and play for the New York Rangers,” he said confidently.
To bring awareness of and raise funds for this critical service, Shriners Care for Kids is partnering with Carl’s Jr. Restaurants to present the first annual Stars for Kids Day on April 9. A portion of proceeds from purchases are benefitting the 3,500 people Shriners serves each year.
Penticton residents may visit a Care Cruiser in person between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at 100-1636 Main St. They may also make a donation at www.bcshriners.com.
The Shriners Care for Kids program is more than tasseled hats, clowns and mini-cars. It provides children with access to exceptional pediatric care through an extensive transportation network that includes the Care Cruiser buses which enable children from throughout the province to travel to Vancouver health care facilities. The Care Cruiser program has logged more than three million kilometres within B.C. since it began in 2001.
No other Shrine Club in North America provides this unique service.