Chance Encounter Changes Course of Bangor Shriner's Life

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - There are 2,700 members of the Anah Shrine in Bangor, every one with their own story as to why they joined.

For Stephen Trimm, it was a chance encounter more than fifty years ago that changed not only his outlook on life, but his health.

"My experience with the Shriners started when I was about nine years old. I was born with a club foot."

It was 1963 in Bradley, Maine.

"And one day a mailman, who happened to be a Shriner, was driving by and saw me trying to chase the kids across the yard. He stopped and talked to my parents and told them about Shriners Hospitals."

Born with a deformity he thought would limit him, Stephen Trimm got the gift of a lifetime from a total stranger.

"I don't even know his name, but I can tell you my doctors' names and my nurses' names."

Trimm traveled 250 miles away from home for treatment.

"The first hospital I went to was Springfield, Massachusetts."

Spending nearly nine months in the hospital.

"I can't tell you how many surgeries, but there was never a bill that came to my house."

More than fifty years later, the iconic Shriner Fez now sits on his desk.

A constant reminder of that random act of kindness and Trimm's own mission to pay it forward.

"You try to help somebody less fortunate than you, whether you're a Mason or Shriner, and children can't help themselves. So somebody has to help them."

Today, Trimm serves as Potentate of the Anah Shrine in Bangor.

"It's very rewarding and it's your ability to finally say that last thank you, really."

Throughout North America, there are over 190 Shrine charters, a fraternity grounded in their service to others and the Masonic principles.

It's through their fundraising efforts that children, like Trimm, can get the treatment they need at Shriners Hospitals nationwide.

"Once you leave those hospitals and see some of the children that we have treated, it's unbelievable. This summer alone, I talked to a little girl, I didn't know who she was. She ran across the football field and jumped up in my arms. And she was born with a cleft palate, couldn't speak. And she sang in my ear while she was on my shoulder. Pretty special."

Life has taught Trimm many lessons.

"Don't ever look at somebody and judge them for the way they look, or the way they walk or the way they talk."

"When I was a child, I didn't even want to speak in school. I stuttered until I was 21 years old. Wouldn't even answer a telephone. And now I'm a professional auctioneer. It's what I do for work."

Call it serendipity or fate, we'll never know what lead that mailman, who happened to be a Shriner, to speak with Trimm's family all those years ago.

But Trimm says it changed the course of his life forever.

"I've worked my whole life. I play golf, I hunt, I fish, I do the things that I probably couldn't have done on one leg."

"Being a Shriner now, I realize that you know you'll never be able to pay them back, but you can't thank them enough."

Trimm says he's never been able to identify the man who helped him get the treatment he needed as a child, but hopes old hospital records have the answers he's been searching more than 50 years for.

We're told Trimm's grandson just became a member of Anah Shrine last January and that class was named after his great grandfather, Carroll Trimm.

Trimm's year as Potentate is coming to an end next week, but he'll continue to serve the community as a Shriner for years to come.