One Hope, One Mission

Cedars stand tall for MDA

by Alyssa Quintero on May 1, 2006 - 3:10pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 3

Since joining forces with MDA in 1951, the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America has pledged its unwavering support to the Association’s preeminent mission — finding treatments and cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.

Based in Harrisburg, Pa., the Tall Cedars is a Masonic organization with more than 14,000 members devoted to “fostering friendship and fellowship among Freemasons and to all mankind.” The Tall Cedars, incorporated in 1902, has 103 forests (chapters) in the United States, primarily in the East.

The organization takes its name from the majestic trees cited in the Bible for their strength.

Each Masonic body in the nation dedicates its time to raising funds for a specific project or charity. After a great deal of research and deliberation, the Tall Cedars signed on as an MDA sponsor more than 50 years ago because it was a “worthy cause in need of support.”

“We just feel that when we see these children born with these dreadful diseases, we want to be there to help them,” Supreme Tall Cedar William F. Shultz said. “We give MDA financial help so they can use the money for research. Our time and efforts are focused on raising money for the children.”

Energized by the Cedar creed of “Fun, Frolic & Fellowship,” the organization encourages its members to take part in its year-round fundraising activities supporting MDA and “Jerry’s kids.”

Supreme Tall Cedar

Shultz of Harrisburg, Pa., was installed as the new Supreme Tall Cedar — the organization’s national leader — on Jan. 1 and will serve a one-year term. Shultz, 75, has been a member of the Tall Cedars since 1961, and he served as the Senior Deputy Supreme Tall Cedar in 2005.

Supreme Tall Cedar William F. Shultz
Supreme Tall Cedar William F. Shultz

Distinguished by the pyramid-shaped hats they wear at their functions, the Cedars meet in groups called forests, each led by a Grand Tall Cedar. One of Shultz’s main duties is to visit the forests in the kingdom. Shultz also takes the lead in the establishment of new forests.

This year, Shultz has the “supreme” honor of traveling to Las Vegas for the 41st annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Sept. 3-4. Shultz will appear on the Telethon and present MDA National Chairman Jerry Lewis with donations from the Tall Cedar Foundation.

In 2005, Raymond Bosley, an MDA national vice president, served as the Supreme Tall Cedar and represented the group at the Telethon’s national broadcast in Beverly Hills. The organization presented checks totaling $480,000 on the Telethon.

“It was an honor to be able to represent all of the people within the Cedar family who worked so hard to collect all of the funds so we could make the donation on their behalf,” Bosley said.

The Supreme Tall Cedar also chooses a child with a neuromuscular disease to serve as its Goodwill Ambassador for the year. Based on recommendations from a selection committee, Shultz chose 8-year-old Reilly Johnson of Harrisburg, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), to serve as the ambassador for 2006.

“Reilly is such a hardy, amusing, enjoyable person to be around,” Shultz explained. “But, when you look at him in the wheelchair and see what he goes through, it makes you want to go out and give 110 percent to help get these children out of the wheelchairs and help them live a normal life. We just feel that’s what we should be doing.”

Long-standing partnership

As MDA’s first official national sponsor, the Tall Cedars organization supports MDA through rose sales, pancake breakfasts, golf tournaments and other events. Each forest has its own set of fundraisers, filtering proceeds into the Tall Cedar Foundation.

A Tall Cedar walking with a child during a parade.
Each year, the Tall Cedars hold a national convention, and invite children with neuromuscular diseases and their families to participate in the parade and closing festivities.

In 55 years, the organization has raised more than $16 million for MDA. The Tall Cedars has raised about $500,000 in each of the last 10 years, MDA Director of Program Development Brian Hunter said.

Shultz said, “For being a small group, we feel pretty proud of that.”

“We’re truly moved by the efforts of the generous members of the Tall Cedars,” Lewis said. “Their contributions, by helping us advance our research and service programs, make a significant impact on the lives of the families that MDA serves.”

Additionally, the Cedars have fostered a close relationship with local MDA staff in areas where they have forests, often participating in MDA Lock-Ups and volunteering at local Telethon broadcasts and MDA summer camps.

“When they need help, they know where to call, and we’re always there,” Shultz added.

“We believe in our commitment to MDA, and it’s an organization that we adopted back in 1951, and we have just stuck with them all these years,” Shultz said.

In May, members of each Cedar forest will converge in Wildwood, N.J., for the organization’s annual convention. The Cedars will discuss general business and fund-raising efforts. But what they look forward to the most, Shultz said, is meeting MDA families and the convention’s grand finale — the parade.

Every year, the Cedars invite at least five MDA families to participate in the parade. At the head of the parade, members of the Tall Cedar Foundation Board accompany the children in their wheelchairs. The children have a great time enjoying the parade’s floats, bicycles and clowns.

“We’ve had opportunities to join on with other organizations, but we feel strongly for MDA,” Shultz emphasized. “That’s where we started, and that’s where we’re going to end up when it all comes to an end and a cure is found.”

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