Kansas Shriner elected to global leadership position

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Jeff Sowder calls himself a small-town Kansas cowboy. But now he has a global title of Imperial Potentate.

“I joined Midian Shrine in 1988,” he said. “I was asked to be an officer here at Midian Shrine and was elected into a progressive position.”

From those humble beginnings, Sowder in his new role elected oversees their entire hospital system. The fraternity known for fezzes and small cars oversees nearly two dozen hospitals to care for kids who can’t afford it otherwise.

“Our 22 hospitals that we have, to try to transition them into different models of care to help more kids in more places,” Sowder said.

One of those kids is Kennedy Wickham. When she was one-year-old, her mother Siara noticed a problem.

“She was just sitting and we saw a hump in her spine and so we checked that out with our local doctor,” she said.

After they saw their local doctor they were deferred to specialists and eventually, ended up at a Shriner’s hospital in Chicago.

“They paid for my plane ticket and Kennedy’s and that is how we’ve been able to get the best treatment for her,” she said.

The cast she needed at the time wasn’t available from most U.S. doctors. But a Shriner doctor was willing to try a treatment devised overseas.

Now, Kennedy has recovered and Sowder said it’s those medical techniques and discoveries that he hopes to guide and advance in his new role.

Nearly 400 Kansas kids are treated at Shriner medical centers every year, all of it free thanks to donations from the public.

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