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Football players learn about impact of Shriners

Hazen (N.D.) football player Payton Leintz (left) and Waylon Sowitch, 5, toss bolas onto a ladder during a Shriners Patient Ambassador Day event at Mayville State University on Thursday, July 12, 2018. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Hillsboro-Central Valley right tackle Nick Preston (#52) and Langdon-Edmore-Munich quarterback Jacob Delvo (#7) lift a prarchute with their N.D. Shrine Bowl teammates Thursday, July 12, 2018, at Mayville State University. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service2 / 3
Richardton-Taylor/Hebron wide receiver Nathan Schwartz (#46) and Mott/Regent running back Joshua Wallace (#30) watch as José Matthews, 13, throws a beanbag at the Mayville State University campus on Thursday, July 12, 2018. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service3 / 3

MAYVILLE, N.D. — Stoene Spilde came here to get ready to play a football game.

His perspective has changed since practices began Monday, July 9.

Spilde will still be on the field Saturday, trying to make plays when the annual North Dakota Shrine Bowl is held at Fargo Shanley High School, with the 11-man game at 4 p.m. followed by the 9-man game.

The Shrine Bowl became more than a game Thursday when a representative from the Shrine Hospital in Minneapolis, as well as five past and present Shrine patients spoke to the football players about what the hospital does and what their experiences have been.

"It opens your eyes when kids come in and tell their experiences, their personal stories about what they've had to go through,'' said Spilde, a graduate of Stephen-Argyle High School. "It was a little moving. You don't realize how tough it can be for somebody until you see the things they've experienced.

"I realized this is more for a bigger purpose, a bigger picture, than just a football game. We're here for the kids and the Shriners first. I wasn't expecting that.''

The hospital representative made an impression. Probably making more of an impact were the past and present patients who talked of their physical problems and what the hospital had done for them.

One teenage girl talked about how, with one hand, she is able to tie her shoes, play softball and play a musical instrument.

"It makes you feel appreciative of what you can do, that you haven't had to go through all they have,'' said Grand Forks Central graduate Zack Murphy.

"Before this week, I didn't know what the Shriners did. I didn't realize all the money (in the Shrine Bowl) goes to the hospital. It's nice to find out that you're playing for what (the hospital) does.''

Cavalier's Sandy Laxdal, on a Shrine coaching staff for the fifth time, said the reaction of athletes like Spilde and Murphy is pretty typical.

"They learn the game isn't the important thing,'' Laxdal said. "It's about raising money for the Shriners and the kids. They take pride in that. I think every kid here would say it's a positive.''

Thursday afternoon, the players on all four Shrine teams spent time interacting with the Shrine patients, talking and playing games with them. There was tossing frisbees, bean bag games, ladder golf and more on an open, grassy area south of Lewy Lee Fieldhouse.

Nathan Schwartz, a wide receiver out of Richardton-Taylor-Hebron playing on the 9-man West team, came here knowing the impact of the game beyond the final score.

His older brother, David, was born with a birth defect and was the beneficiary of the services of the Shrine Hospital.

"It was a big goal of mine to be here playing,'' Nathan Schwartz said.

"I've seen first hand what the Shriners do after seeing what my brother went through and how they helped him. He grew up with so much pain in his arm. After multiple surgeries at the Shrine Hospital, he doesn't have that pain any more.''