Our Town - Dick Sanders

Transporting children keeps Sanders young

Transporting children keeps Sanders young

November 29, 2004|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize but don't know anything about. People like ...

Dick Sanders

Age - 72.

Occupation - Previously employed by Fairchild as a flight test engineer, then worked as an engineer for Thiacol Chemical, a rocket engine manufacturer in Elkton, Md.; retired in 1992 from CDSI (Computer Data Services, Inc.) in Germantown, Md., as manager of computer services.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Sanders? - Sanders has been transporting local children to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Philadelphia, for medical procedures or checkups since 1996. He has also taken several patients to the Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati to its burn institute.

He said he provides transportation for about 28 patients - from Washington and Frederick counties and one patient in West Virginia - an average of about one trip a week.


"Once I took the first two patients up, it grabbed a hold of me and I haven't been able to let go yet," Sanders said. "When I have kids in the van, I don't feel 72. I feel much younger."

Sanders has been a member of the Ali Ghan Shriners since 1980. He's been secretary of the Hagerstown Shrine Club since 1987 and is also part of the Sayara unit, known by parade watchers as "the guys in the little cars." This year the unit participated in 22 parades and Sanders only missed one.

While some parents transport their children on their own, most have found that being transported to Philadelphia by the Shriners makes the hospital visit less stressful. The national Shriners organization also pays for airline flights if required.

"They get to the point where they enjoy going up," Sanders said. "We try to make it fun."

Sanders is one of seven van drivers for the local Shrine club and he's trying to recruit more drivers. Two drivers are required for each trip and Sanders usually drives with Lee Lecron.

The Hagerstown club has two vans - one that holds two families and one big enough for three families.

The Shriners operate 23 children's hospitals in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The hospitals are fully funded through donations and an endowment fund that also supports research. Once a child is accepted as a patient, they are treated at no expense to their family, Sanders said.

"I've never seen children get better care," Sanders said.

The Shriners Hospitals for Children, Philadelphia, provides specialized care for young patients with orthopedic problems - conditions related to scoliosis, cerebral palsy, brittle bone disease and limb deformities. The hospital also does research on spinal cord injuries.

"I love it because of the kids," Sanders said. "That's what makes it all worthwhile, to see the progress they make."

Sanders, a 1950 graduate of Hagerstown High School, is one of six sons of Preston and Mildred Sanders. He was in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1955, serving in Korea and Japan, then returned home, where he attended what was then Hagerstown Junior College from 1955 to 1958, then went to work at Fairchild.

Preston Sanders purchased a bakery in Aberdeen, Md., in 1963, which he ran until returning to Hagerstown in 1969. He purchased the Cookie Jar Bakery in Hagerstown in 1965, which his son Don ran and is now run by Don's son, Perry.

Dick Sanders said people ask why he didn't go into the bakery business and he explains that he wanted to work in the daytime and sleep at night.

Sanders and his wife of 50 years, Noreen, met on a blind date. They have lived on Eastview Drive since 1959 and have one son and three grandchildren.

Hobbies - Sanders started golfing in retirement and belongs to the Tall Cedars Golf League. The Tall Cedars is an offshoot of the Masonic Lodge, just as the Shriners are, Sanders said.

In addition to the service organizations he belongs to, Sanders is a trustee at the Chewsville Community Center. "That's about all I have time for," he said with a laugh.

He's also a coin collector and likes to collect First Day Cover stamps.

What does Sanders like best about Washington County? - "It's the right size town for me," Sanders said. Although he said he's partial to the county because he grew up here, Sanders admits he's distressed about the high volume of apartments being built in the area of his home near Pangborn Elementary School.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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