It's one thing to know about the reason the Kansas Shrine Bowl is played, to financially support the St. Louis Shriner's Hospitals for Children.
It is quite another to experience that reason first-hand.
That's why the Kansas Shrine Bowl teams have always made the long trip to St. Louis, Missouri, prior to each year's game. The trip allows each player and coach to observe first-hand the reason the game is played by giving them the opportunity to meet many of the kids that are receiving free orthopedic care at the St. Louis Unit. The 2007 teams made the whirlwind tour on Saturday, one day after players reported to camps.
The trip to St. Louis is always a highlight for Shrine Bowl players and coaches. "It was a great experience for the players to go to the Shriner's Hospital and see what they're playing for," said West head coach Jason Kenny (Ulysses). "The Shriner's are such a wonderful organization, and do such great work for the kids who need it."
Tyler Herl (Shawnee Heights) says going to the hospital was "a life-changing moment. You see how lucky you are to born with what you have, and how unlucky they are, and how by playing this one football game you can change all that."
The trip is always scheduled for the Saturday before the Shrine Bowl. Players, coaches, and managers at both the East camp in Emporia and the West camp in Salina board buses before dawn for a ride to Kansas City's International Airport, where they catch a mid-morning flight to St. Louis. The highlight of the day is the
trip to the hospital, where they are given a short presentation about the hospital, then are led to the hospital's large recreation area. There, they spend about an hour and a half interacting with young patients.
It's hard to tell who is having the most fun, the patients or the players. Initial shyness quickly dissolves into smiles and often animated discussions about the things they have in common--movies, sports, and school.
And more than one Shrine Bowl player gets challenged to a quick game of foosball or air hockey, or gets invited to join one or more patients in a basketball shoot-around on a portable goal at one end of the rec room. And being an all-star football player is no guarantee of success against patients who have perfected their games. "I got challenged by one young patient in both foosball and air hockey", says Chris Holly (Shawnee Heights). "He got me in foosball, but I got him in air hockey," he laughs.
The spirit of the hospital patients is not lost on the players. "The kids there are so strong, and have so much hope and belief," says Max Adame (Seaman). "It really puts a face on what we're doing."
The 2007 trip featured a side trip that was another major highlight for many of the Shrine Bowl Players. Upon arriving in St. Louis, the players and coaches were given a tour of the Russell Training Center, which is located in an industrial park just west of the St. Louis airport. It is the home of the NFL St. Louis Rams, including the team's training facility and administrative offices. The tour included the Rams weight room, locker room, and an 80-yard indoor practice facility.
Proceeds from the event support the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, a network of 22 hospitals that provide expert, no-cost orthopedic and burn care to children under 18. Children are admitted totally free to Shriners Hospitals for Children without regard for race, religion, nationality, creed, or relationship to a Shriner.
The 2007 Kansas Shrine Bowl will be the most family-friendly ever, with several events taking place during the day. Planned events include a 5K Run for Charity, a day-long Arts and Crafts Fair, a Kid's Fair, the annual Kansas Shrine Bowl Parade, a high school football combine, and a Charity Poker Run that will include cash and prizes.
Advance reserved chairback tickets for the all-star game are $20.00 in advance, $21.00 on game night. Adult general admission tickets are $9.00 in advance, $10.00 on game night. Student tickets (K-12) are $5.00 in advance, $6.00 on game night. Banquet tickets are $20.00, and must be purchased in advance. Additional information and tickets can be purchased through the Shrine Bowl office by calling 1-800-530-5524.