Any time the circus comes to town, it’s an exciting event. But tonight’s annual performance of the Shrine Circus at the Brownwood Coliseum means much more than trained elephants, trapeze acts and clowns for one Brownwood family.
Benjamin Benefield, who will turn 3 on Saturday, is a patient at a Scottish Rite hospital and proceeds from the circus provide services and support for his and other families.
“As a parent of a child who’s a patient of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, I encourage those in Brownwood, Early, Bangs, Zephyr and Brown County to attend the Shrine Circus performance at 7 p.m.,” Benjamin’s mother, Miranda Devenish-Benefield, said. “Most everyone loves a circus performance. This is a circus with a purpose, if you will. The Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children is an incredible organization that provides families with more than just needed medical services.”
She said she knows from firsthand experience that the hospital provides families with resources and support when tackling their child’s needs.
“Whether it’s support groups, adaptive equipment or free popcorn during clinic visits, Scottish Rite supports the families in their journey,” Devenish-Benefield said. “Our son Benjamin was born with a condition called symbrachydactyly. A rough translation means, ‘shortened or webbed fingers or toes.’
Benjamin will probably require surgery in the future, but doctors are waiting while his hand continues to develop before proceeding, his mother said. After initial examinations were completed a few months after he was born, Benjamin has been going to the hospital annually for checkups, and his next visit is due in November.
While Benjamin doesn’t have the full use of one hand, Devenish-Benefield said he copes with it well because he’s never had full fingers and doesn’t know what he is missing. However, he does get frustrated at times.
“While we weren’t aware of his condition before he was born, we were referred to TSRHC and were given an accurate diagnosis with encouragement and confidence,” she said. “For any parent, facing the reality that their child has a limb difference is a daunting task and an emotional roller coaster. We have been blessed with a fantastic team of doctors in the Hand Clinic who are always ready and willing to answer any questions or address any concerns we have.”
Devenish-Benefield said Wednesday she hopes to be able to attend part of the circus performance, but she and her husband Jason also have an 11-month-old child, and work schedules and care arrangements have to be juggled. Benjamin has also had a hectic week so far, having started preschool classes on Wednesday. But she hopes as many people as possible will attend the circus and support the work of the Shriners.
“Without the long-standing charitable work of the Shriners, thousands of families would be faced with the enormous financial expectations of paying for their care,” Devenish-Benefield said. “The hospital and its programs bring together families so their children know that they aren’t the only ones with an arm that’s shorter than the other, or that their hand is missing some fingers.”
Benjamin is “all boy,” his mother said. “He’s a friendly, independent kid.”
Devenish-Benefield said she feels a special connection between her family and the Shriners because her great-grandfather and grandfather were both Shriners.
“It wasn’t until after we had gone to the hospital that I was reminded of that,” Devenish-Benefield said. “It’s very interesting, because I feel that after four generations, it’s come full-circle.”
Attending the circus helps families care for their children, she said.
“Too often, when we make a donation, we don’t know exactly what our monies are used for,” Devenish-Benefield said. “Check out http://www.tsrhc.org if you want to learn more about the work they do.”
She said research is also an important part of the hospitals’ work. According to “Rite Up,” a publication of TSRHC, a team of their researchers has been able to identify the first gene associated with scoliosis.
“Monies spent at the circus will certainly go to a worthwhile cause,” Devenish-Benefield said.
Applications for assistance are accepted by local Shriners and a local Shriner sponsor assumes oversight of a child’s case. Applications are accepted without regard to a family’s financial need or any relationship to a Shriner, officials said.
She also expressed the family’s appreciation to staff members at Early Childhood Intervention, including Angie Cox, Liz Reagan and Susan Ruiz, even though the latter no longer works there.
The Heart of Texas Shrine Club has provided area schools with free tickets to attend today’s performance. Local officials said proceeds from adult ticket sales and concessions go to support transportation for needy children and their families to the Shrine and Scottish Rite hospitals in Texas.