Many people are familiar with the cartoon image of the Shriner carrying the little girl and her crutches. What most do not realize is that the cartoon is based on an actual photo taken in 1970. The photograph is of Shriner Al Hortman, carrying a girl named Bobbi Jo Wright. The older girl in the photo is Hortman’s daughter, Laura, who was a patient at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. It was after Laura began receiving treatments at the Shriners Hospitals for Children that Al Hortman joined the Shrine.
The photo known as the “Editorial Without Words” is probably one of the best recognized symbols of Shriners Hospitals, yet it was taken almost by accident. Randy Dieter, the photographer, recalled that in 1970, he had been on assignment covering Hadi Temple’s annual outing for handicapped children at the now-defunct Mesker Amusement Park in Evansville, Indiana.
“I was taking shots of the midway and was using my telephoto lens,” Dieter said. “I saw a local Shriner walking by carrying a little girl in one hand and her crutches in the other. My camera wouldn’t fire. Then they were too close for my lens. I ran past them, but the camera jammed. I had to take my last shot as they walked by. It was the end of the roll. If I had to think about it, I wouldn’t have come up with something like that. Fate guides you.”
“It still seems unreal,” said Bobbi Jo Wright, the little girl in the photo. “I have many wonderful memories of the years I was a patient at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital and remember all the fun activities. I was born with cerebral palsy, which resulted in many orthopedic problems that made walking difficult. I had many surgeries at the St. Louis Hospital. They greatly improved my ability to walk.”
Bobbi Jo received her B.A. in English from Anderson University. She is active in her church and teaches Sunday School. “I use a cane when I go shopping,” she said. “If I’m walking on grassy areas, I use crutches.”