The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl: A Tradition of Sportsmanship and Hope
The 69th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl was played on August 6 at Castleton University in Vermont. One of 30 Shrine football games held each year across the country, the Maple Sugar Bowl brings together young athletes, patient ambassadors, Shriners and the entire community to support world-class specialty pediatric care provided at Shriners Children’s locations in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts and Montreal, Canada. All three facilities were represented at this year’s event, with patient ambassadors Mason, Giavanna and Jenson participating in the festivities.
The annual contest is played in August between two all-star teams of graduated high school seniors from Vermont and New Hampshire. This year’s game was a defensive thriller, with New Hampshire prevailing 7-0.
Former player and Shriners Children’s New England patient Mason led the New Hampshire team onto the field. Born without a left forearm and hand, Mason was fitted for a series of prostheses as he grew that helped him participate in many different sports and activities. He became a three-sport varsity athlete in high school, competing in football, ice hockey and baseball.
A New Hampshire resident, Mason was slated to play in the 2020 Maple Sugar Bowl, bringing together his love of sports and the organization that helped him succeed as an athlete. Unfortunately that game was canceled due to COVID, but he attended in 2021 and again this year as a patient ambassador. Mason is now a thriving college student who hopes to one day become a professional coach.
Shriners Children’s patient ambassadors Giavanna and Jenson attended the pre-game banquet with their families, where they met the players and received commemorative apparel from the Mt. Sinai and Cairo Shrine Center leaders. At the start of the game, they were introduced at midfield and each presented with a football from the players.
Giavanna, 13, was born without a right hand and started receiving care at Shriners Children’s New England in Springfield when she was 6 months old. Giavanna, who goes by G, has been fitted for prosthetic devices that have helped her to participate in archery, ride a bike and play the violin. In 2021, she received the Hero Arm, a 3D printed myoelectric device that allows her to have the movement and dexterity of a traditional hand.
A sports enthusiast, G was excited to attend the Maple Sugar Bowl. “It was awesome to see everyone come out to help support us kids, and it was a game I will remember for my entire life,” said G. “Above all else, it was an honor to represent Shriners Children’s New England.”
In the late summer of 2017, Jenson sustained a severe burn injury at home which resulted in third degree burns to his face, neck, chest and arms. He was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston via life flight, and then transferred to Shriners Children’s Boston, where he had multiple surgeries.
Jenson and his parents Amber and Wade were honored to attend the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. “It was an incredible experience,” said Amber. “We are always happy to do anything we can to help people understand how much Shriners Children’s helps kids.”
For Jenson, it was very exciting to be introduced on the field at the start of the game. According to Amber, another highlight was getting to know his fellow patient ambassador, G. They stayed at the same hotel and spent time together at the pool. Still self-conscious about his burn scars, Jenson felt comfortable taking his shirt off to swim after he watched G dive right into the water. “He was inspired by G’s confidence and really grew from that experience,” Amber said.
Shriners Children’s Canada was represented at this year’s event by Board of Governors Chairman Peter Rippstein and his wife, Myrna, as well as Marie-Anne Desjardins, director of development. They greeted spectators along with Stacey Perlmutter, director of development at Shriner’s Children’s New England. “It was so nice to see the community come together,” Marie-Anne said. “It is wonderful to see how much the Shriners give of their time and talent to support our work.”
The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl has raised nearly $5 million since it began in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1954. Being named to the roster is a tremendous honor that many players dream of from the time they are young. “Representing their state while supporting the mission of Shriners Children’s makes this a unique and memorable experience for our players,” said Mt. Sinai Shriner Kristi Morris, General Chairman of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl since 2014. “Hearing the stories of hope and healing from our patient ambassadors reminds us all of the importance of this annual tradition.”
All proceeds equally support patients at the Springfield, Boston and Montreal facilities. The tradition will continue in 2023, as the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl celebrates a very special 7oth anniversary milestone.
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