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Playing For The Kids

By Staff | Jul 22, 2010

SHRINE?BOWL?PLAYERS - John Ruddy and Tommy Kuecker are playing in the Iowa Shrine All Star Game this Saturday at Iowa State University in Ames. -- Dan Voigt photo

When the whistle blows this Saturday night, Emmetsburg’s E-Hawks will be well represented in the 38 th Annual Iowa Shrine All-Star Football Game in Ames. Not only will the E-Hawks have two players on the turf of Jack Trice Stadium at Iowa State University, but they will also be represented by an Assistant Coach on the North Squad sidelines and a ball boy.

Tommy Kuecker, the son of Jim and Judy Kuecker of Cylinder and teammate John Ruddy, the son of Doug and Coleen Ruddy of Emmetsburg will play for the North squad in the annual fundraising classing for the Shriners’ Hospital charities.

Emmetsburg Head Football Coach Mike Dunlap has been tabbed as an assistant coach for this season’s classic, and Max Dunlap, the son of Mike and Julie Dunlap, will accompany his father to serve as a ball boy for the North squad for this year’s game.

Along with Kuecker and Ruddy, athletes from northwest Iowa who will be playing on the North Squad Saturday night include  Tyler Tonderum of Armstrong-Ringsted, along with Kyle Schuck of Cherokee, Taylor Zeutenhorst of Sheldon, Jesse Selgeby of West Lyon, Randy Wooster of Eagle Grove and Josh Steinberg of St. Ansgar.

The Shriners operate 18 orthopedic hospitals across the United States, along with three burn centers and one general hospital. The facilities do not bill for their services, relying on the ongoing endowments of the Shriners and proceeds from events such as the Shrine All-Star Game. There is no cost to any child receiving treatment at a Shrine Hospital – Shriners pay for the transportation of the youth to the facility, and cover the room and board  of a child’s family while they are undergoing treatment.

The operating budget for 2009 for the Shrine Hospitals was some $826 million, or $2.26 million per day to operate the Shrine Hospitals.

North squad Head Coach Roger Jansen of Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City truly understands what the Shrine All Star Game is about.

“This game is bigger than any game I’ve ever been associated with,” Jansen said. “Why? The cause – it’s those kids – those kids who battle everyday to walk, or to smile. That truly is the bottom line for this game and for each of you. I challenge everyone to make this the best game that you will ever play.”

South Squad Head Coach Bob McCoy of Bedford, knows what the game will  mean to each of the prep players. “You’ll make friends for the rest of your lives and this will be a great experience for you, but most importantly, all this, everything that you do on the field or in the various activities, it’s all for the kids in the hospitals.”

“This is not about winning and losing – it’s about the experience, the kids, and about making a difference in each of these kids’ lives,” Jansen concluded.

The Shrine All Star Game is sponsored jointly by the four Iowa Shrine Temples: Abu Bekr of Sioux City; El Kahir of Cedar Rapids; Kaaba of Davenport; and Za-Ga-Zig of Des Moines. 

Players are nominated by their coaches, and two teams, with up to 46 graduating high school seniors, are selected. The division line for the North and South basically is Highway 30 as it crosses the State, East to West, with the western extension from Denison to Onawa.  All schools bordering Highway 30 have players on the South Squad, except for the Cedar Rapids schools where the players are on the North Squad.  The exception is Cedar Rapids Prairie, which represents the South Squad.

The nominees must not be just good athletes, but also academically successful and active in both their school as well as community.  

The players reported to Iowa State University in Ames on July 17 for their week of drills and practice prior to the July 24 game. A highlight of the week occurred Tuesday when patients of the Shrine Hospital in St. Paul traveled to Ames to spend time with the players, watching them practice and interacting with the players. After a break, the players traveled to Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames, where staff members from the Twin Cities Shrine Hospital explained the work they do with patients at the facility.

 The purpose of the day’s activity was to give the players a better understanding of the cause they are playing for – the children who are treated by the Shrine Hospitals across North America.

Game time for the 2010 Iowa Shrine Bowl will be 7 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.