The Shriners organization is a group that exists within Freemasonry as an independent fraternity focusing on charitable actions to help children in need and celebrate family values. It was founded by Walter M. Fleming and William J. Florence in New York City, New York, in 1870 as a means to enhance the sense of fun and brotherhood among Masons.
The Shriners organization was originally known as Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, taking inspiration from both Masonic and Middle Eastern iconography. The only significant requirement to join the organization is to be a member of a recognized Freemasonry lodge, which carries its own set of rules and guidelines for admittance. Florence and Fleming started the Shriners so that they, along with other Masons in the area, could continue to hold their fraternal meetings while also involving their families.
Over time, the organization grew to include more Masons in the area as well as Masons from other states. The group held its own meetings, which included activities and games, until the 1920s, when its members decided to shift the organization's focus to helping children. At that time, America was experiencing a polio epidemic, so the members began holding fundraisers to help hospitals and also visiting hospitalized children to cheer them up. The members then began joining in parades to help promote awareness of their issues and to bring fun to the lives of others.