By Joanna Chadwick
I called Heights football coach Rick Wheeler this morning for a story, and he started telling me about the real meaning of the Shrine Bowl. Most of us should know that the all-star football game for graduated seniors is about fund-raising for the Shriner’s hospitals. It’s a great cause and outstanding football players are honored in the process. But check out what Wheeler said below. It’s awesome.
Wheeler: “It’s a really unique situation because it’s an all-star game, they’re chosen because they’re very good and they have been recognized that they’re very good. They show up with a certain swagger and confidence and there’s a big mixture of urban and rural kids, big school and small school kids. It’s really an eclectic group that’s there.
“The neatest thing about it is that once they’re there, they think they are there to be honored when they get there, to be recognized as these great young football players. Once they do the (Shriner’s) hospital visit (where they meet children in the hospital) and witness to what the game is really about, a fund-raiser for the Shriners,to support their children’s hospitals. Once that sinks in, it becomes a mission for them. They’re the products that are being sold and it’s not really to honor them but to bring awareness to the Shriner’s hospitals and the cause and all the kids who weren’t as fortunate physically as they are, who won’t have the opportunity to even compete at a high level of athletics. I think becoming aware of that, is what truly makes the game great.
“So instead of them playing for the community and their home and their school and parents, they’re playing for a higher cause.
“In my three experiences (as a West squad coach), that’s really what’s helped us to become a team, to help us have the success we had, in that short period of time. It’s a motivational factor.”