PITTSBURG — The East and West teams have arrived in Pittsburg, and are prepared to do battle in the 2018 Shrine Bowl.
Before getting down to the game on Saturday, the football players, cheerleaders and the Masonic Band gathered on Thursday at the Plaster Center for the “Shriner Hospital Experience.”
Shriners Hospitals are all across the United States. The hospitals are funded by Shriners who raise money and volunteer. The proceeds from the annual game go to help fund the hospitals.
At the event Patient Ambassadors, who once were, or currently are, patients at the Shriner Hospital, gave them a “hands-on” experience through eight different stations.
At one station football players Jared Flood, of Overland Park, and Dalen Williams, of Wichita, battled against each other in a challenge to go shopping in a wheelchair, overseen by Shriner Patient Ambassador Kayly Schoming of Salina.
Schoming showed her prosthetic leg to the crowd of football players and cheerleaders, while sharing her experience.
“They’ve [Shriners Hospital] definitely changed my life,” she said. “I don’t think that I’d have the self-confidence or determination to be independent without them telling me ‘you can do this.’”
Flood and Williams hurriedly picked up the groceries from the “shelf” and tossed it in their carts while in wheelchairs. From there they took their groceries to the “counter” to bag them up. Afterwards, they had to carry the bags on their lap as they rolled the chair “home” and to put the groceries “inside.”
Flood said he found it difficult to transport the groceries while rolling up the ramp. Williams agreed and both said it made them see Schoming’s experience from a different perspective.
At another booth, two patient ambassadors, Jacey Brown, of Fort Scott, and Cierra Brumback, of Girard, gave a demonstration on pediatric orthotics and prosthetics, which they both have experience in using.
Both said after their experience at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis, they wanted to become more involved and encourage others to join.
Brown and Brumback challenged their group to walk a few meters on boards tied to ropes, to give the participants a feeling of what it is like to have no feeling at the end of a limb.
At the middle of the Plaster Center was the Holthaus family’s station. Pat and Jenn Holthaus’ son, Beckett, of Seneca, had a rare limb deficiency. Two-year-old Beckett showed his audience how can run, walk and throw a ball with his prosthetic leg. He also showed how independent he can be without his prosthesis.
Another patient ambassador, Madelyn Hubbs of St. Louis, showed her group how she can play the Ukulele and she also challenged people to put a pillowcase on with one arm.
Jayden Seitz, helper and water boy of Seneca, was challenged to tie his shoes with only one arm. He managed, but he said it was difficult, especially since he was using his non-dominant hand.
“They keep trying,” Seitz said about people who have to learn how to do things such as tie shoes or close and open sandwich bags with one hand.
Football player Reese Nebel of Hesston said meeting the patient ambassadors has been “surreal.”
“Every person here were given a chance to live the best life as they can [because of the Shriners],” he said. “I’m blessed to be here and meet so many people.”
Player Aaron Clark, of Great Bend, agreed with Nebel.
“They told us this was more than just a game,” Clark said. “Their saying, ‘strong legs run so weak legs may walk’ is really embodied here.”
On Saturday the football players, band and cheerleaders have a full schedule with the parade at 10 a.m. at Downtown Pittsburg and the big game at 7 p.m. at Carnie Smith Stadium.