Bobby Jack Savage is a road runner.
No, he doesn’t say, “Beep! Beep!” before racing off in the desert after frustrating Wiley Coyote.
He travels from here to Tampa, where, with a driving partner, he picks up a van, then travels to where a child needing specialized medical treatment lives and transport the child and their family to a Shriners Childrens Hospital, most often one in Greenville, South Carolina, or Cincinnati.
Throughout the years he has made 112 trips to the Shriners Hospital burn center in Cincinnati and 117 to the orthopedic hospital in Greenville. He’s also ferried children needing treatment to St. Louis, Missouri, and Lexington, Kentucky.
There are 22 hospitals in North America and children under 18 with burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft palate and lip and orthopedic conditions such as club foot, scoliosis, brittle bone disease, cerebral palsy, dwarfism and muscular dystrophy are treated regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Headquartered in Tampa, the Shiners’ Children’s Hospitals do not charge for treatments, and often family expenses for lodging and meals incurred during a child’s hospital stay are also provided free.
“Everything is paid for,” Savage said. “All the patient and parents do is get in the van and ride. We take care of the hospital bill, the food, the lodgings ...
“It makes me feel good to know that I carried a kid [to the hospital] that will get well,” he said. “I love kids. I wouldn’t go if it wasn’t for them. If people could go and see what I see, it would turn your head. People don’t know what we do … families aren’t charged. We don’t discriminate. If it’s a kid, we take care of [him or her].”
What is his payment for his work? “To see these children get better,” he said.
The circus was in town
Last week, when the Shrine Circus was in town, Savage was there even though, earlier in May, he made two roundtrip runs to Greenville, South Carolina, and one to Cincinnati, as well as working the primary election on May 24.
For the Porterdale native, who turns 85 next week, it’s just part of who he is — a man who has given much of his free time to others.
Prior to retiring from C&D Technologies in Conyers, a storage battery manufacturing company, Savage served as a state umpire in Rockdale County for over 30 years. “I umpired fast pitch baseball and pitched fast pitch for 10 years.”
He also coached Little League and Senior League baseball in Newton County.
But when he retired, he said, he wanted to do something else. In 1991, he became a member of Pace Masonic Lodge in Covington, and after completing the 32nd Masonic degree, or level, became a member of the Shriners International and joined the Alcovy Shrine Club in Covington.
Shortly after, he became road runner and began ferrying children and their families to Shriners Childrens Hospitals when asked.
Riding so others can walk
Savage owns two of the familiar little cars — a jeep and a pick-up truck –he uses to appear in parades or at special events. This year, he said, he and other Shriners would appear in 20 parades, including the recent Newton County Special Olympics and the Fourth of July celebrations in Social Circle on July 2 and Oxford July 4. He will also be taking the cars to the upcoming Porterdale block parties, scheduled at different locations in the village on Saturdays through July 16. (See “Porterdale police and alumni host block parties this summer,” http://www.covnews.com/section/1/article/201284/.)
The cars, he said, have the Shriners’ logo on them. “On mine, it says, ‘We ride so burned and crippled children can walk’,” he said. If you got one of them, you have a Shriner’s logo on it — that’s all. On mine, “We ride so burned and crippled children can walk.”
Though she hasn’t accompanied him lately, Georgia, Savage’s wife of nearly 55 years, has made 50 trips with him. Road runners, he said, always “drive with a partner, usually the same partner most of the time.”
The oldest Porterdale resident living who was born in Porterdale, Savage married a girl he met in grade school. “She moved into Rockdale County,” he said, “then when she came back, we met again and married.”
Shortly after marrying, Savage was drafted during the Korean Conflict, but was sent to Germany. He served first in the Army’s 43rd Infantry Division before transferring to the 9th Army Division. There, he trained under the 101st Airborne, known as the “Screaming Eagles.” He was discharged in 1954, but remained in the reserves until 1962.
The couple, who attend Calvary Community Church in Covington, has two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Savage said if someone knows of a children needing treatment for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries or cleft lip and palate, they should contact a Shriner or give him a call at 770-786-8874.
The hospitals are supported by donations from Shriners, corporations and the general public. To learn more about Shriners Childrens Hospitals, visit http://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/.