Holding Hands – Touching hearts – Changing lives .
These were the words unashamedly emblazed
on the of Mark Benevolent Fund Grand Parade banquet table menu cards within the Grand Connaught Rooms in Great Queen Street, London. The banquet enabled Mark Grand Lodge to welcome representatives from charities in receipt of grants from ‘The Mark Benevolent Fund during 2018. A year that was a particular milestone for the fund marking its sesquicentenary year.
The Reverend Canon, George Raymond Portal 1827 – 1889 was the founder of the Mark Benevolent Fund in 1868. The premise of fund was to support those mark masons and families in times of need but importantly the needs of our communities. A fund that has done just that, for over 150 years
I wondered how proud he would have felt to see representative’s from 37 different charities across the country as they took part in ‘The Grand Parade’ into Grand Mark Lodge following the Communications Meeting of Grand Lodge on Tuesday 12 th March 2019.
Presiding over the meeting was the Pro Grand Master, MW Bro Raymond John Smith, who invited three representatives from those charities to inform the assembly of some six hundred brethren in including or Provincial Executive Team who accommodated our Provincial Grand Master, what the donations they had received enabled their particular charity to provide.
First was Nicky Wilkinson – from the Children’s Heart Unit of the Freemans Hospital, Newcastle. The unit carries heart transplants to children. She explained how this specialist care can often require young children having to be confined in hospital for many weeks, even months. Over 950 children per year require their services, with sum 7000 out patients.
She passionately stated that their services were to allow children to be children and enable families to be families. Referring to the £7,625.00 donation which went towards the newly refurbished and extended ‘sensory room’ for patients.
Nicky then gave two short examples of the importance of such a facility to patients. One such patient was a five month old baby girl, hospitalised during those months. While in her cot there was little evidence of response to stimulus activity, however, for half an hour each day the baby attended the sensory room. The young infant was stimulated by that environment. Responses observed and improved as the baby reacted to the various lights, sounds and activity. We had to imagine the emotions of the parents as their baby expressed visual responses, be they actual physical activity, recognition or even smiles.
The second was Brian, a boy of eight years of age, a patient who with severe autism. A difficult condition at the best of times but more so when confined in a hospital environment. Again, the time spent within the sensory room he was free to control the environment which he was experiencing. He was happy during those periods, enjoying those experiences which aided his stay but also gave comfort to his parents.
Both stories certainly touched the hearts of the audience.
John Gibson, representing the National Association of Blood Bikes thanked the brethren for the £10,000 donation, which allowed the purchase of a vehicle to carry larger volumes of blood required for use by the Air Ambulance Service and hospitals. He expressed the appreciation of the Blood Bikes service for this additional donation above those already received from Mark Masons. Donations that enable the expansion of their vital services to so many lives.
Finally, Tony Shepherd, Prior of England & Irelands of the order of St John (Ambulance Service) He looked splendid in his regalia and could not conceal his admiration for the commitment of Mark Masons and the Benevolent Fund. He referred to the donation of £3.8 million for the purchase and supply of 52 ambulance vehicles, three being community service units. These vehicles being shared across each province of the Country. He was in no doubt that every day the contributions made by Mark Masons, changes lives by the services of St Johns Ambulance.
The Pro Grand Master, announced those services would be further enhanced by an additional three ambulance in 2019. During his closing remarks he thanked all Mark Masons for the work and effort given to support the Mark Benevolent Fund. The contributions large or small allowed the Benevolent Committee to make donations totalling £4,381. 718 to community charities in 2018.
Reflecting upon the events of the day and being part of the celebratory banquet group, I am confident that we should be thankful for what we as Mark Masons can jointly achieve in supporting the Mark Benevolence Fund. Our commitment enabled those particular charities to provide many invaluable services. Such provision that touches countless hearts and no doubt change thousands of lives daily. In short, four million reasons to be proud of to be a Mark Mason.
Report submitted by W.Bro Michael Wilkinson.