GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—They're known for their circuses, hospitals, and kind deeds. Now, one Shriner in Grand Rapids is literally going the extra mile to help sick kids get life changing treatment.
68-year-old Mike Rooze is a retired construction worker who has made transporting young patients in need pretty much a full time job.
"There's certain children that just ring the drivers hearts," Rooze told FOX 17 News. "We get pretty close to our kids."
Rooze is a 14 year member of the Shriners, a longtime organization dedicated to making a difference in the community. As a member of the Saladin Shrine, Rooze coordinates the trips from West Michigan to the nearest Shriners Children's Hospitals. The service is completely free to families in need of it. Rooze volunteers his time to do it.
"When he says 35 hours a week, I think thats a gross understatement of the time he actually spends here," said David Neff, another Shriner at Saladin Shrine. "He's often here at 4, 5 o'clock in the morning to get a trip out. If something blows up, he's going jump in at the last minute."
Rooze and the rest of his fellow Shriner drives make more than 400 trips a year to those hospitals. Sometimes, the organization even pays to put the patients up in a hotel if need be in different cities. They also provide post-operative equipment like walkers and wheelchairs free of charge.
Rooze says his reward is watching the children as their conditions improve.
"When you see the children that have had long term care at Shriners hospitals, these drivers get to see these kids with serious problems slowly get better and better," said Rooze. "It's one of the most rewarding things I've ever did in my life, because you get to help the kids."
A neighbor nominated Rooze after noticing his extra efforts logging long hours and lots of miles to "pay it forward". Rooze humbly points out that all Shriners deserve the same recoginition for the work they do, but FOX 17 is honoring him as "Pay it Forward Person Of The Week" for his selfless work and dedication to kids in desperate need of getting to a hospital.
"He's not looking for any self advertisement here," Neff told FOX 17. "He just works hard. I think he loves doing it. He's told me that a bunch of times, that this is what he ought to be doing."
For more information on the Shriners and what they do, click here.