Unique is the word Anah Temple Shrine of Bangor past potentate Rodney Pinkham of Holden uses in describing the Sunshine Club and the work it does for Maine children who are treated at the Shriners’ hospitals in Boston and Springfield, Mass., Philadelphia and Montreal.

As most people know, Shriners burn centers and orthopedic hospitals treat children under 18 without cost to the patients or their families.

However, getting to the hospitals, staying there for treatment, returning home and follow-up visits are not covered.

That is where the Sunshine Club shines, because it helps cover those expenses.

This year, Sunshine Club member Lorraine Harvey reports the club has donated $15,000 to assist more than 65 children and families to travel to these Shriner hospitals and receive treatment that can change and improve their lives.

“This club is unique,” Pinkham told me, “in that we have a separate organization that covers the housing and travel” for children and a family member while the child is receiving treatment at a Shrine facility.

Most other Temples do not have a separate organization to fund such expenses, and must seek other means to raise those funds, he said.

“This corporation is completely for this purpose,” Pinkham said, adding that anyone can become a member of the Sunshine Club.

You do not need to be a Shriner or related to a Shriner and, contrary to what you might think, you also do not need to be female.

Members do, of course, include Shriners and women, but also friends who pay annual dues of $5 before Jan. 1 of each year, or lifetime dues of $50.

The money raised by the club provides transportation, housing and a per diem allowance for the parent and child.

The organization meets three times a year, beginning with a social time at 6:30 p.m. and business meeting at 7 p.m. the second Monday of January, April and October at the Anah Shrine Center, 586 Main St., Bangor, Harvey said.

If the regular meeting day falls on a holiday, the meeting is held on the next business day.

The Sunshine Club has many male members, including Pinkham, who also holds the distinguished and responsible position of secretary of the board of governors of the Springfield Shriners Hospital in Massachusetts.

If you are interested in joining the Sunshine Club, call co-chairwomen Norine Holt at 862-3457 or Peggy Kaufman at 924-6610 for more information.

One of the ways in which the Sunshine Club raises funds to help so many Maine children and families is through its annual holiday marketplace, which is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at Anah Shrine Center in Bangor.

The admission is $1 for anyone older than 12, and this year co-chairwomen Sue Black and Karen Lannon are preparing to welcome 20 new vendors to the sale, which will feature approximately 40 artisans offering everything from gourmet foods to tole painting, photography and stained glass.

Pam Spofford and the Anah Clown Wives, with the help of their Anah Clown husbands, will staff the lunch booth, and Tanya Darling of Corinth will have a hand-sewn quilt for raffle along with other items including donations by several vendors.

The Children’s Transportation Fund receives the proceeds from this major fundraiser, and it is that which makes Pinkham so proud of this special group.

Donations for the Sunshine Club do come through other sources, he said, but it is the work of this separate group in particular that enables this temple to more completely assist children who need medical attention for everything from burns to spina bifida, cleft palates, orthopedic braces or artificial limbs.

The four hospitals the Sunshine Club supports are those located in the “catchment area of the Northeast Region, which consists of 17 temples from upper New York state to Maine,” Pinkham said, while pointing out, once again, the uniqueness of having a separate entity funding additional costs associated with treatment at these facilities.

Pinkham also urges anyone in our area with a child under age 18 who needs or could use the free services provided by the Shriner hospitals to call 413-735-1235 or 800-322-5905 for more information.

You also may call Anah Temple Shrine at 942-2254.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.