Seven year old Nicholas Tutt loves the color red. So when Shriners in their red caps and jackets appear his eyes light up. " Hi, Nicky. How you doing?," is the greeting Nicky hears. Shriner Oren Simpson says, " He talks a lot and he's always happy, always smiling and we have a good time driving him over and bringing him back."
About every three weeks Nicholas, a child with cerebral palsy, is loaded into the Shriner van by kind gentlemen. They take Nicky and his mother to Shreveport's Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children. " You ready to go for a ride? You want to go for a little ride," said Simpson. The Shriner's transportation service is free and a God send for Nicholas' mom, Ramona Tutt. " I think they're special and fantastic and great because they offer relief for me as far as having to travel that long distance. They're doing the driving, so I can keep an eye on Nicholas if he needs me."
Other children are taken to hospitals in Dallas, Houston and Galveston. Almost every week the drivers help a child in need. They sometimes leave as early as three in the morning. They do it because they care. Shriner, Don Kirkley receives, " A lot of self satisfaction knowing we are helping kids that need help."
The Shriner work is noticed by all who help children with special needs, including Nicholas' physical therapist, Nancy Elder. " A lot of the children I do have benefited from Shriner's. They provide transportation. They provide bracing. They do walkers, so I do see a lot of benefits and we use them at school also." Elder helps Nicholas at Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary, but she travels to every school in Nacogdoches County.
So rather at school or on the road, Nicholas and other children will be helped by the Shriners wearing the red jackets and hats. And there's a way you can help too. Tuesday, February 20 is IHOP National Pancake Day. Customers will be given a free short stack of pancakes. Customers will be asked to contribute the regular charge to the Shriners.