MOSES LAKE - Hal Gruver loves kids so much, he can't say no to an opportunity to help them.
When he had a chance to become the Spokane Shriners Children's Hospital child advocate for Grant County, he jumped at it.
In 2009, Shriners International considered closing five of its 22 nonprofit children's hospitals, including the Shriners Hospital in Spokane.
The hospitals weren't seeing enough patients to stay afloat, says Gruver, a member of the El Katif Shrine temple in Spokane. The hospitals escaped closure by pledging to actively recruit children to be treated at the hospitals. The hospital needs to treat 1,200 patients per year to stay functional, he says.
Gruver, who has been a Shriner for 25 years, became the child advocate for Grant County in May. He is also an advocate for children in some areas outside the county, such as Ritzville, Rock Island and Moxie. Since taking on the child advocate role, he has approached more than 30 children in and around Grant County about being treated at the hospital, he says.
As a child advocate, Gruver answers parents' questions about the hospital and actively solicits children who qualify for the hospital's services, he says. If Grant County residents are interested in being treated at the hospital, living so far from it makes it difficult for Grant County residents to know who to contact, he adds.
Shriners Children's Hospitals provide free treatment to qualifying children under 18. Many parents don't seek treatment for their children's medical problems because they think they are too expensive to treat, or think their children will grow out of them, says Gruver, adding that they may not know that Shriner hospitals can help.
Gruver follows in the footsteps of Bob Trask Sr. and Richard Zorn, Grant County's previous child advocates.
"From my standpoint, it's a real honor to be asked to follow their work and do as good a job as they have done," said Gruver. "They set very high standards for me to follow."
Many areas, such as Wenatchee and the Tri-Cities, have screening clinics to look for children that may benefit from the services offered by Shriners Hospital, says Gruver.
"We haven't had a screening clinic in Moses Lake for at least 10 years," he says. "This is kind of a substitute for it, so they at least know how to get ahold of me."
While most of the children Gruver has contacted are from Moses Lake, he's also contacted kids from Othello, Moxie, Harrington, Mattawa, Quincy, Royal City, Benton City and Rock Island, he says.
For more information, call the El Katif Shrine temple at 1-509-624-2762 or 1-800-369-2762. Or call Hal Gruver at 509-766-0164.
Shriner hospitals treat individuals 18 or younger with any of the following conditions: Scoliosis, dislocated hips, club feet, cerebral palsy, cleft lip or palate, absent arm or leg, meylodysplasia, Oseogenesis Imperfecta, short legs, rickets, Legg Perthes disease, fractures, sports injuries, burn scars and variety of neuromuscular diseases.