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Orillia man takes reins of Canada's largest Shriners temple

Being named potentate for Rameses Shriners 'an honour and a privilege,' says Shawn Hewlett
2021-03-08 Shawn Hewlett
Shawn Hewlett has been named potentate of the Rameses Shriners.

An Orillia man is hoping to make his mark on the largest Shriners temple in Canada.

Shawn Hewlett was voted in on the weekend as potentate for the Rameses Shriners.

“It’s quite an honour and a privilege to be representing the 2,200-plus nobles and represent the Shriners internationally,” said Hewlett, a retired Orillia OPP staff sergeant.

The Rameses temple is the Shriners’ 13th largest in the world. It covers an area that stretches from Kingston to Guelph, south to Niagara and north to the Timmins area.

Hewlett’s interest in the fraternal and service club dates to 1975, when the Shriners were in Toronto for a convention. He and his dad were watching the parade and Hewlett asked what it was about. His dad pointed to the Hospital for Sick Children across the street, where some of the young patients were outside watching the parade.

“See those kids across the road? They help children like that live normal lives,” his dad told him.

The Shriners’ dedication to helping children still resonates with Hewlett.

“The Shriners Hospital system is a leader in the world in burn and orthopedic injuries,” he said, noting the club assists those up to 18 years old who are living with conditions including scoliosis, clubfoot, spina bifida, neuromuscular disorders and more.

Some had been told they’d never walk again and, after going to a Shriners Hospital, “they not only walk, but run,” Hewlett said.

The families of those helped by the Shriners don’t pay anything. Hewlett said all a parent has to do to start that process is contact any Shriner or call 1-800-361-7256.

Hewlett joined the Shriners in Peterborough in 1996, initiated alongside his father. In 2001, he became president of the Orillia Shrine Club — the youngest Shriner to hold that position.

He has a number of goals he’d like to accomplish during his year as potentate. One is to attract more members to the Shrine.

“The declining membership is due to people just being too busy. Young people are overwhelmed by their day-to-day lives, having kids,” he said. “It’s any organization, not just the Shriners. I hope that our membership will increase, that our brand will become more prevalent.”

That includes being visible in the communities they serve by taking part in events and parades.

Shriners are known for driving tiny cars in parades, “but it’s about much more than that,” Hewlett said of the ultimate beneficiaries of the club’s efforts — kids.

He will also look at more ways to move toward the virtual side of operations.

“We need to become more electronic, more digital,” he said, adding that could lead to cost savings that could be put toward directly assisting those in need.

Hewlett’s slogan for his term as potentate is “Bigger than Ourselves.”

“It’s not about any one person; it’s about the whole system,” he said.


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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