Shrine potentate turns truck into rolling billboard

Brian Eason

Each year, as new potentates take over the local temples of Shriners of North America, they are faced with the task of selecting the year’s theme.

Myron Mendenhall Jr., who became potentate — president — of Springfield’s Ansar Shrine in January, took his theme verbatim from a high potentate in Florida.

Brazenly displaying the annual slogan on 18 wheels? That, Mendenhall came up with himself.

“My slogan this year is ‘Shriners Do Make a Difference,’” said Mendenhall, of New Berlin. “When I heard that, I thought: Yes, we do. We do make a difference.”

Mendenhall solicited the Shrine’s advertising guru to make the design for his truck, and a Shriner from Petersburg created the lettering.

“That’s a traveling billboard for Shriners Hospital right there,” said Mendenhall, who uses the truck in his business, Pete Mendenhall and Son Trucking.

Shriners of North America is a philanthropic Freemasonry fraternity that works closely with and raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

There are 22 Shriners Hospitals in the United States, all of which provide free health care for children. The nearest hospital to Springfield is in St. Louis.

Mendenhall joined the organization in 1993, but his father, Pete, had been a Shriner since 1975.

“I just decided that this is the thing I wanted to do,” Mendenhall said. “Put something back to the community as far as taking care of the kids.”

The Shrine has held parades, car shows and barbeques, and even brings in an annual circus. The Ansar Shrine AG Corps unit puts on a tractor telethon each year, soliciting donations for the hospital while driving more than 20 antique tractors down the highway.

Ansar Shrine recently held its annual Potentate’s Ball — only this year, it was called the Potentate’s Bash. Mendenhall modified the Saturday event when many of the Shrine’s newer members couldn’t afford the typical black-tie affair.

The Ansar Shrine provides transportation to the nearby hospitals. The Cincinnati location specializes in burn treatment, while the St. Louis location provides orthopedic care to 13,000 children a year. Doctors for the hospitals are in short supply.

“There are approximately 10 pediatric orthopedic surgeons being graduated across the country a year,” said Carroll Sutton of Springfield, a Shrine spokesman.

Ansar Shrine serves a 250-mile radius in central Illinois.

Brian Eason can be reached at (217) 788-1531 or