Community Conversations

Community Conversations Fall 2023

Gronk met with Shriners Children's patient Sam and his family.

A letter from Mel Bower, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Shriners Children’s

Dear Readers, 

I am delighted to introduce you to two spectacular young people, Gianna and Juan Diego. They have graciously accepted the responsibility of representing Shriners Children’s as our 2023–2024 International Patient Ambassadors. In this role, they will spend the year sharing their stories about their achievements in the midst of adversity and the difference our healthcare system has made in their lives. 

Gianna, 15, was born with a condition creating limb differences. She came to Shriners Children’s Southern California as a baby, where she underwent an amputation and received her first prosthesis. Over the years she has received many such devices, but even more meaningful may be the care and emotional support she received as well. 

Juan Diego, 19, was burned in an accident at his home in Honduras when he was a young teen. A few months later, he arrived at Shriners Children’s Boston, where, as a first step, his acute injuries were treated. Then came the hard work of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Through it all, Juan Diego’s positive outlook has never wavered. 

We invite you to read their inspiring stories on page 15. 

Also in this issue, you’ll learn more about Shriners Children’s research efforts. Research is so important to us that it is enshrined in our mission, right there with providing excellent pediatric medical care. We are devoted to helping our patients – and all children – by discovering brand-new knowledge that can lead to improved care for the conditions we treat. 

Mel Bower
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
Shriners Children’s


Retired NFL superstar Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski made a surprise visit to Shriners Children’s New England in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Dec. 20, 2022. The four-time Super Bowl champ came to spread holiday cheer to patients and their families. Dressed as “Robbie the Elf,” Gronk participated in various activities and brought gifts, including footballs, jerseys and sneakers, all of which he was happy to autograph. 

One of the families Gronk met with was 11-year-old patient Sam, his brother Ben, 9, and his mom, Michelle. Michelle had this to say: 

On behalf of Sam, Ben and myself, I just wanted to say thank you to the entire Shriners Children’s team and organization for making two young boys’ dreams come true! This is a day that we will never forget! The boys so enjoyed their experience and are beyond grateful! We are so blessed that because of Shriners Children’s hard work, Sam is thriving and growing. He is a real testament to what excellent care means in the life of a child who needs it!