Submitted by MIC John Ridenour, CMMRF Board Member
Late last September, a Companion approached me and asked why CMMRF wanted to buy a $75,000 pencil? I must admit to being completely caught off guard by this question. As the next Board of Trustees meeting was just a few weeks out, all I could say was that I didn’t know but that I would find out the reason and get back to him. At that meeting, I learned the entire story. In one of the Indiana University School of Medicine research labs, funded by CMMRF, the team developed a rather unique way to use a 3D printer. In place of regular 3D printer ink, the researchers use a substance that the body does not recognize as foreign. In addition, medications can be added to the “ink” and placed inside the body The “pencil” in the story is the mechanism that places the special 3D printer ink in the desired location. The business end of the tool is designed to work inside or outside the body. The tool is tapered down to a point so that it could fit through a laparoscopic incision The only way to have one is to build it yourself, and I finally understood why a “pencil” can cost $75,000. While it is easy to chuckle about how information can be distorted, it is important to think about the future uses that this particular tool may have. The future plan for this “pencil” is to build a sleeve around an aneurysm inside the human body to help prevent it from rupturing.
Late last fall, I had developed a small CMMRF presentation based on a set of slides given to the Board and wanted to give the presentation to see how it flowed. I asked my Worshipful Master, who is not a member of Chapter, Council, or Commandery, if I could give a CMMRF presentation to our Lodge members at an upcoming meeting. He kindly told me that the rest of his year was planned out and there just wasn’t enough time in any of the meetings left before year-end. two weeks later he visited another nearby Lodge where I gave the CMMRF presentation. After closing, he asked me if what he just saw was what I wanted to present to our Lodge. When I said yes, he asked if I was available to present at the next Stated Communication, which I did.
My first exposure to detailed information on the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation was in October 2004 at the Northwest Regional York Rite Conference in Boise, Idaho. I had been elected to the Oregon Grand Chapter line the previous Spring and this was my first time at the regional training session. I had seen literature describing Royal Arch Research Assistance (RARA), the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation (CMMRF), and the Knights Templar Eye Foundation (KTEF), but this was the first time I attended live presentations given by individuals who knew the charities well. While it was exciting to hear detailed information on all three charities, it was CMMRF that spoke to me
At the October 2004 session, the participants learned that research supported by CMMRF had resulted in the development of a new arterial clamp a few years prior to this. This clamp allowed patients undergoing procedures that required going into the body through the femoral artery to have an easier recovery. Before the clamp was developed, post-surgery the patient was required to lay still, in bed, with a 10-pound sandbag providing constant compression on the femoral artery. Foregoing the sandbag and utilizing this new clamp was a major change that greatly benefitted patients undergoing such procedures. The October 2004 CMMRF presentation also touched upon then-current research that was utilizing adult stem cells. The potential uses for stem cell therapy were numerous and, being at heart a math and science nerd, I was excited. This excited nerd began making regular donations to CMMRF.
As a Grand Chapter Officer, and later a Grand Council Officer, I kept attending the Northwest Regional York Rite Conference and I kept learning more and more about CMMRF and the potential uses for adult stem cell therapies. In simplistic terms, stem cells are the body’s building blocks. If stem cells are injected in muscle, they become muscle cells. If injected in blood vessels, they become blood vessel cells. At one particular Boise presentation, probably 2008, we learned that clinical studies were underway to treat heart disease patients with stem cells. In a matter of months following that particular presentation I recall leaping from my chair with excitement when the national news had a segment on the first heart attack patient to undergo stem cell therapy. The realization then struck me that CMMRF had played a part in it. This excited nerd continued making regular donations to CMMRF.
My work life continued through the years, as did my Masonic journey. In 2014, I accepted the offer to serve as Treasurer for the August 2017 General Grand Chapter and General Grand Council Triennials, which were held in Portland, Oregon. While Triennial committee members are at the Triennial, I must admit the experience is a bit different when you become part of the team that plans and executes such an undertaking. There is very little free time available. In 2017, the General Grand Council Triennial Assembly was held on Monday. One of my closest friends challenged me to run for election to one of the three at large positions on the CMMRF Board of Trustees. To my surprise, I was elected.
Before continuing, I must state that there are no “bad” Masonic charities. This article is for the Decryption, which is Council-specific. Royal Arch Research Assistance, the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation, and the Knights Templar Eye Foundation are but three Masonic charitable endeavors. There are many others, more than I can possibly name, including the Shrine Hospitals, Scottish Rite Aphasia Clinics, various state Masonic charitable foundations, and many, many more. All of these charities do amazing things with the funds we donate to them. I primarily speak about CMMRF because it is the charity that has research that speaks to me. It is the charity that puts a fire in my belly.
Today, I am near the end of my second three-year term on the Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation Board of Trustees and I do plan to run for a third term. My experience on the Board has simply reinforced my belief that CMMRF will eventually impact every person in the world, either directly or indirectly. For these reasons, this nerd will continue to support the Cryptic Masons Medical Research with both time and money, and it is my hope that you will, too.