My name is Nicole. I am the girl holding hands with football player Mike Esposito in the logo. I remember when I was 15 years old, walking on the field with Mike during half time, holding hands to reenact the photo that was taken of us when I was two years old.
I always used to attend the football game when it was in California, but I have not been in years since it is played out of state now. My son is 13 and is a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children®. I would love to bring him to a game so we can share some of those memories. I remember my mom taking all of my brothers and sisters to the game. It was a special day that my family looked forward to and we still reminisce about the times we spent there. It is a great cause and a fun filled day.
Growing up with a disability has its physical challenges as well as social and physiological challenges. Luckily my family have made me feel "like a normal child" even though the kids at school were mean and teased me a lot. Being a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children made me feel "normal". I owe everything to the doctors, nurses and all of the staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children.
I had only a vague understanding of the work of the Shriners Hospitals for Children and their philanthropy as it related to helping those in need. To experience it first hand and to hear the heartwarming stories of the three young people involved on Friday evening gave me a whole new understanding of the role that they play in people's lives. They are truly an organization meeting the needs of people that otherwise would have no place to turn. They are to be congratulated and commended for their efforts.
Manheim Touchdown Club
As I walk through the halls of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati everyone knows my name, almost as if I'm a celebrity. I was severly burned when I was just nine months old. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati not only saved my life but they also gave me the ability to lead a normal life even though I have had seven surgeries and will have at least two more at Shriners.
One thing they gave me that I cannot measure is a passion for life. I became a patient ambassador for the health care system two years ago. Since that time I have had the opportunity to speak across the country about the hospitals and share my story.
In 2009 I was chosen to be the East-West Shrine Game® Hero, a day I'll never forget! I was honored to share my story with the nation's top football players and let them know how their futures can impact Shriners Hospitals for Children. As I walked out on the field to flip the coin, I knew I'd never be defined by being burned, but by what I had made of it.
2009 Game Hero
My son Tobey is a patient at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Houston. He started going to the hospital at three months of age and is now 11 and a half He was born with myelomeningocele (Spina Bifida), hydrocephalus, Arnold chiari malformation of the brain and a tethered spinal cord. He has endured 18 surgeries and hundreds of doctor’s visits, clinics, tests and procedures.
Our family attended the Houston Hospital’s East-West Shrine Game player visit day after they moved the game to Texas.
In my experiences in life I come across very few people who are willing to really give of themselves. It is sad, but it is true. Too many people get caught up in their own wants and needs and never even consider thinking about others. Don’t get me wrong, I have come across people that I will never forget and their kindness and generosity towards me or my children will stay in my memory forever. However, I have also come across so many people who have false assumptions and ideas in regards to my special needs children and who they are. My heart breaks every time someone assumes that my son is retarded just because he is in a wheelchair or that my daughter is not worthy of speaking because she has been labeled autistic. It is often too much to take.
Today I saw something more. I witnessed the selfless behavior of many young men who are in the prime of their lives. These guys, from colleges all over the country, were there for one purpose — to get to know the children that come to Shriners Hospitals for Children — and get to know them they did! During their visit they played catch, danced, sang karaoke, competed in wheelchair basketball, created arts and crafts, took pictures, ate pizza and just “hung out”. For the first time in a long time my heart smiled. It was the greatest thing that I have ever seen and renewed my faith in mankind. These men did more for the children by just being there than they will ever know.
We left after three hours with full bellies, free t-shirts, free caps, numerous goodies, tickets for the game and the excitement of knowing that we will be able to cheer on these “cool guys”, as Tobey stated so nicely.
I am happy to hear that this game means just as much to the players involved as it does the kids and their families. We had a terrific time at the game and hope to be able to return. This game is a blast and has now become a tradition in our family and an inspiring way to kick off the New Year!
Mother of a patient
I had the opportunity to visit the Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston in January of 1991 as a member of the East Team. My experience visiting the children was eye opening and life changing.
I gathered all kind of goodies from my school, Montclair State University, and brought them with me. As I dug into my bag and handed the children hats, shirts, and anything else I brought along, their smiles became bigger and bigger. It was as if I were a magician pulling stuff from an endless bag. This was the true meaning for me, making people less fortunate than I feel they were the most important thing in the world.
Because of this visit to Shriners Hospitals for Children, my life was changed forever. I have the burning desire today to do as much as I can to give to local food banks and various charity's and do my best to make the world a better place!! I hope to be involved in some capacity to benefit these special little people. But this I promise, all who cherish the real purpose of this event will hold magic in their hearts forever!! THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION.
1991 East Team Player