Shriners Imperial Potentate visits Amherst

Published on September 12, 2017

Gary Bergenske, the Imperial Potentate of Shriners Internationa,l was in Amherst on Friday. He told several stories of the good work Shriners do, including the story of a seven-year-old girl he met in Sacramento, California. Bergenske is from Florida.

©Dave Mathieson - Citizen-Record

AMHERST, N.S. – The public always see Shriners bring smiles to kids faces at parades, what they don’t often see is the smiles they bring to kids faces in hospitals.

Gary Bergenske, the Imperial Potentate of Shriners International, was in Amherst on Friday to remind local Shriners of the good work they do for communities both near and far.

Bergenske was in the Maritimes with his wife Ann last week and made lunch stop at the Shrine Temple on Lawrence Street Friday afternoon during a road trip from Charlottetown to Halifax.

Bergenske told the story of a seven-year-old girl they recently met at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, California.

“Ann and I were in the little play area. We were sitting at a little kids table and this little girl came across the room with a walker and both her legs were in casts,” said Bergenske.

The little girl, Shelby, sat in a chair beside the Begenske’s and started talking to Gary and Ann.

“When she talked, she smiled, and half her teeth were out and the new ones were coming in, and nothing seemed to fit together but she had this smile that would win you over,” said Bergenske. “She had this personality that was…Well, I know you’ve all been there when you meet someone and you kind of fall in love with them right away.”

He asked Shelby what she was going to be when she grows up, and she said, “I’m going to be a policewoman.”

I said, “Really, tell me about that.”

She said, “I’m going to run up and down stairs, I’m going to chase the bad guys and I’m going to catch them and put them in jail, and I’m going to make the world safe.”

They talked to the girl about other things, such as school, and then she got up and started playing.

Bergenske walked over to Shelby’s mother and said, “You have the most beautiful daughter. She can accomplish anything in the world that she wants to. You know what she’s going to be when she grows up?”

Her mom said, “A policewoman.”

With that, the mom began to cry, and said, “Yesterday was the very first day Shelby was able to walk down a flight of stairs.”

Bergenske said he began to cry as well.

“The work that we do, the lives that we change, not only in the children but in the entire family, makes a difference,” he said.

Shelby was able to walk because of surgeries done at the Shriners Hospital for Children.

“Those kinds of stories we see everywhere we travel to,” said Bergenske.

Bergenske talks with the mayor of Amherst David Kogon.

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

Bergenske is from Florida and was elected Imperial Potentate in July of 2017 for a one-year mandate.

Members from three Nova Scotia Shriner Clubs visited the Amherst Shrine Temple on Friday ­­– Cumberland, Central and Pictou – and Bergenske asked all in attendance to help grow the membership.

“In the last five years the amount of new members we’ve been bringing in worldwide is 7,000 per year,” said Bergenske. “I set a goal this year as Imperial Potentate from July, when I was installed, to next July, to bring in 12,000.”

To reach that goal, Bergenske started the I Am, RU campaign to recruit more members.

The campaign asks current members to commit themselves to finding one new member to bring into the Shriners fold.

“The Shriners started in 1872 and there’s been a lot of generations that has turned it over to the next one, and it’s up to each of us to turn this over to the next generation better than we found it,” said Bergenske.

Mayor of Amherst David Kogon thanked Bergenske for visiting Amherst, and said, "As a retired physician I appreciate the Shriners and how they focus an awful lot on health care and hospitals and research, and it does my heart good because it is something, sadly, we are all going to face. We appreciate the work and thank you for visiting our country, our province, our town."

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

Gary Bergenski arrives with his wife Ann.

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

Bergenske was greeted at the the Shriners Temple in Amherst by Harold Farrow, president of the Cumberland Shrine Club.

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

Bergenske asked Shriners to take part in the the I Am, RU campaign to recruit more members.

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

A fun video was taken of the Shriners taking part in the I Am, RU campaign.

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News

©Dave Mathieson - Amherst News