Biggest single donation ever by local Shriners

Cathy Dobson

When President Don Roberts and the rest of the Lambton Shrine Club learned they were the recipients of a generous bequest, they were shocked.

“We had no idea it was coming,” said Roberts. “We opened the letter about a year ago and just couldn’t believe it.”

The late Kathleen Gardiner left the club half of her $1.9-million fortune.  The other half went to another local charity, according to Roberts.

Gardiner was the widow of Lambton Shriner Max Gardiner who died in 1992.

The bequest was made on the condition that the 138 members of the Lambton Shrine Club spend the money on the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal.

It is the only Shriner hospital in Canada and, coincidentally, has been rebuilt with a grand opening scheduled this month. The new 22-bed hospital specializing in pediatric orthopedics, had a wish list of state-of-the-art equipment that the club reviewed, said Roberts.

“The timing was very fortunate. We took a look at the list of what they need the most and decided on an imaging machine called the O Arm that improves surgical accuracy.”

The O Arm is able to provide real-time images of bone and tissue.

The price tag?  $875,000.

“That’s why it stood out,” said Roberts. “This piece of equipment might not fit the budget of other clubs but we could afford it. We chose the most expensive thing we could budget for.”

If there’s any shortfall due to estate taxes, the club is prepared to fundraise and make up the difference, he said.

The money is by far the largest one-time donation made by the Lambton Shrine Club in its 80-year history, Roberts added.

However, the club regularly raises about $50,000 to $60,000 a year through Christmas cake sales, onion sales and events like golf tournaments, lottery draws and aluminum can collection.

Every dollar is dedicated to helping children with orthopedic problems, who often require surgery at the Montreal hospital. It also helps pay for transportation between Sarnia and the hospital. At any given time, between four and seven local children are receiving assistance from the Lambton Shriners.

On Oct. 2, a hospital board member was in Sarnia to receive the second payment of $300,000 toward the O Arm. A cheque for $440,000 was delivered earlier and the balance will be paid soon.

“We’re proud to say there’s a plaque at the new hospital in Montreal that explains the O Arm was donated by the Gardiners and the Lambton Shrine Club,” said Roberts.

“The Sarnia community has given us so much support and we want them to know where their money goes. It’s all to help the kids.”