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Shriners bringing patients from St. Louis hospital to Emporia
Shrine Bowl
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EMPORIA — For the first 37 years of its existence, the Kansas Shrine Bowl sent hundreds of Kansas football players to St. Louis in order for the players to see first-hand the facilities at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital for Children, and to meet the young patients that have benefited from the game they are playing.
But travel challenges have made the one-day trip to St. Louis difficult, if not impossible, and have forced Shrine Bowl and hospital officials to find another way to acquaint players and coaches with medical care offered by the hospital.  The solution:  if the teams can’t come to the hospital, then bring the hospital to the teams.
That’s what will happen when a busload of St. Louis hospital staff, patients, and equipment make the 343-mile journey to Emporia State University’s Memorial Union, where they’ll “set up shop” for one day to showcase hospital activities at Hospital Visitation Day on Thursday, July 26.
“The trip to St. Louis has always been a highlight of the Shrine Bowl experience for players and coaches”, Shrine Bowl Executive Director Emeritus Dave Mize said.  “We don’t want to lose that connection, and bringing the hospital to Kansas is the next best thing to going.  We tried it last year in Salina, and it worked well, so we’re excited about doing it again.”
Some 15 to 20 young patients and their families will make the trip via a chartered bus. Many of the patients, called patient ambassadors, will have an opportunity to show those attending what happens at various department at the hospital.
The 39th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, July 28, at Welch Stadium on the Emporia State University campus.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Susan Bland, a public relations specialist at the St. Louis hospital, says players, coaches, and others attending the event will pretty much see everything they’d see at the hospital itself, with 13 “stations” organized to simulate various hospital departments.  
“It will just be a mobile version of it”, she says.  “We’ll be bringing prosthetic devices, and we’ll have wheel chairs and walkers.  A patient ambassador will host each station, and guests will hear the patient’s story, and do an activity that simulates what patients go through in each of the departments.”
Bland says having the patients themselves tell their stories and talk about the various hospital departments makes the day more meaningful for those attending.
“When you take the tour, you’ll actually hear about a department from someone who has gone through it.”
Not only will the hospital send many of its patients, but Shriners Hospital patients who live in Kansas have also been invited to attend, and even help with the presentation.  “We would love to have their help on that day”, says Bland.
One positive about bringing the hospital to Kansas is the increased number of people who will experience what the hospital does.  “In the past, the player visits usually brought a group of about 100 to the hospital”, she says.  “This year, over 500 people have registered to come through.”  The additional people will include the All-State Masonic Band, usually some 200 strong, plus students involved in Cross Country, cheerleading and dance camps at ESU that week.  While the event is not a public event, Bland says walk-ins will be welcome, provided they register with the Kansas Shrine Bowl office at 1-800-530-5524.
All Shrine Bowl events are produced and presented to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children [SHC]. SHC is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to the age of 18 are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.
Tickets and additional information are available at or by calling 800-530-5524.