The closest Shriners Hospital is in Greenville. | Photos courtesy Shriners Hospitals for Children

For the next four years, the Charleston Classic college basketball tournament will be sponsored by Shriners Hospitals for Children, the health care arm of Shriners International, a Masonic fraternity with nearly 200,000 members around the world.

Founded in 1922, Shriners Hospitals boast a handful of public facilities across North America, including a hospital in Greenville, that specialize in pediatric orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. The hospitals started as a way to treat polio and have since “taken off,” according to Kenny Craven, vice president of the hospitals’ board of directors.

2019 Patient Acquisition Photos

“Our outpatient services are growing,” Craven said. “Medicine is changing and we need to treat more people. They’re out there; they just don’t know about us.”

The Shriners got into the game of sponsoring sports tournaments early on, beginning in 1925 with the organization’s support of the East-West Shrine Bowl, the longest-running college all-star football game in the nation. It expanded its sponsorships to golf, college baseball and even NASCAR events, all in the name of awareness of the organization’s work.

“It’s worth it to get it out there what we really treat,” Craven said, “what can we do to get our name out there and let people know what we do.”

Born and still living in Summerville, Craven is particularly excited about the Classic taking place in his backyard, not far from the local Omar Shrine Temple in Mount Pleasant where he often gathers. The Temple plans to hold a fundraiser on Nov. 20, with proceeds going directly to Shriners Hospitals.

“It’s fantastic philanthropy,” said Craven, who works as an auto broker. “To raise money to go to such a great cause has created a lot of excitement.”

And the basketball is set to provide a great backdrop as well, he noted, especially with the return of crowds.

“We’re excited to have fans back in the arena. We’re excited to partner with both ESPN and the College of Charleston,” Craven said. “It’s good for the local community and gets more information (out) about what Shriners and the hospitals do.”

“We hope to be a partner here for a long time,” he added.

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