Benefit circus comes to town

April 08, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

A circus that benefits kids in more ways than one is coming to town Saturday.

The 51st annual Ali Ghan Shriners Circus, featuring the Royal Hanneford Circus, will perform at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in Hagers-town Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.

The circus will perform at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md.

The circus will feature high-wire acts, illusionists, acrobats, an archer, gymnasts and performing ponies, said Allen Shirk, circus chairman.

In addition to putting smiles on children's faces, the circus is a fund-raiser for the Shriners, who have 22 hospitals for children in North America, said Allen Shirk, circus chairman.

The circus raises money so the Shriners of the Ali Ghan Temple, based in Cumberland, Md., can operate, Shirk said.

"If we raise enough money to do this, it frees members up to raise money for the hospital side," said Shirk, 53, of Frostburg, Md.


Shriners hospitals for children are free for patients, who are admitted when younger than 18, Shirk said.

Most of the money raised by the local temple goes to transport patients to the hospitals, such as the orthopedic hospital in Philadelphia, Shirk said.

Shriners pick the patient up at home, pay for transportation tolls, meals and motels if the family needs to spend the night, he said.

"Right now we're world-renowned and receive patients from all over the world," Shirk said. Patients must be sponsored by a Shriner or referred to the Shriners by a doctor.

Last year Shriners units in Hagerstown and Cumberland each took patients to Shriners hospitals about four days of each week, Shirk said.

The Cumberland temple has 1,100 members in the Tri-State area, he said.

Many people probably know the Shriners from the Mummers' Parade in Hagerstown each fall.

Members of the Shriners' Sayara unit dress in red jackets and fez hats and drive mini antique Lizzy Ts in the parade. The Frederick, Md., unit dresses as Keystone Kops and drives minimotorcycles.

The circus gives local residents a chance to meet Shriners members and ask them about driving those small vehicles because members cannot stop during the parade to answer questions or chat with people, Shirk said.

During each show on Saturday and Sunday, at least one boy's bicycle and one girl's bicycle will be given away, Shirk said. To be eligible for the bicycle giveaway, people must buy a program for $1.

The Shriners have given away numerous tickets to the low-income families and people with physical and mental disabilities, Shirk said.

If you go ...

WHAT: 51st annual Ali Ghan Shriners Circus, featuring the Royal Hanneford Circus

WHEN: Saturday, April 9, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., at Hagers-town Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown; and Sunday, April 10, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., at Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Md.

COST: Admission costs $6 in advance and $8 at the door. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Tickets are available at Gibney's Florists on Virginia Avenue and West Franklin Street, Halfway Volunteer Fire Co., EVS Truck Repair, Hagerstown Community College bookstore, Shives Pizza in Hancock and at the door.

CONTACT: For more information, call 1-301-722-5970.

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