It's Not About The Game

Jun 01, 2017 -

On Saturday, the best graduated high school senior football players from across Nebraska will bring their “A game” to compete against each other in the Shrine Bowl at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium Foster Field at the University of Kearney. But it isn’t really about the game; it’s about the good will of playing football while helping to fundraise for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The players love to compete, but the patients are their cause.

“I heard from guys in the past that it’s a lot of fun, and that it’s an experience you’ll never forget. I didn’t know much about the Shriners before this, so this is all a new experience for me. Anything we can do to help the kids is good, but I am ready for the game,” stated Peter Gehrls.

Before the states’ players take the field, divided into the two teams named North and South, this years players had a little fun in with the patients in the annual “Beyond the Field Event”, where patients try to show some of the difficulties of their everyday lives with their particular medical challenges. Poppy, a spirited eight year old who was born with only half an arm, gives the players a taste of their medicine, as they try to open a Ziploc bag and tie their shoes with their dominant hand behind their back. The point of this game is not about football, it’s about the kids — kids like Poppy. To appreciate her challenges and be inspired by her strength. Poppy has been a Shriners’ patient for six years, and learned how to use her one of her prosthetic arms within just a few days of getting it.

Zion Williams said, “I Shrine because it’s a great cause for the kids and with all these things that go on in life, me being around them would make me a better person, and it always puts a smile on other people’s faces, and also we’re playing a football game, it’s just great.”

“Well I’ve been told a lot about how much money they fundraise for children and PEDS things and I feel really good about playing. It gives me like a huge reason for me wanting to play. It’s a real big honor, because I see all these stories about how they have to learn how to walk with prosthetic legs and stuff. We have a gift to play football; they have a gift of hope,” Mason Bogacz explained.

These graduated seniors listen to the stories of numerous patients coming to understand the hardships of what some of these kids go through, their understanding and acceptance shows their respect for others.

“I talked [to] some buddies that played last year and they said it’s a good experience and they said they wish they could go back and play again with the kids and everything. They said they’d never forget it and neither will I,” said Cody Ritterbush.

As the players, patients, and Shriners left Tuesday from Beyond The Field the sense in the air was one of hope. For everyone, it’s not about the game on Saturday, the real game has already taken place, on a field and through an afternoon spent with truly inspiring young people who make all involved remember: it’s not about the game, it’s about the children.

By Tessa Wiser and MacKenzie Pierson