2020 Players and Coaches Visit Shriners Hospital for Children

Since 1925, the East-West Shrine Bowl has benefited Shriners Hospitals for Children and its mission to provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, regardless of the families’ ability to pay for services.

 

Players and coaches visit a local Shriners Hospitals for Children during game week to meet the patients and gain a greater understanding of the importance of the game. During the inspirational and humbling visit, the teams experience a day they will never forget. Whether dancing to music, playing games or simply sharing stories with one another, the instant friendships that form between the patients and players are a testament to our motto of being more than just a game.

Football’s Finest

The East-West Shrine Bowl is the longest running college all-star football game in the nation. The East-West Shrine Bowl is an important part of America’s football tradition, giving top college players a chance to showcase their talents to NFL scouts and a national television audience.

For more than 90 years, some of football’s greatest athletes and coaches have contributed to the tradition of the East-West Shrine Bowl. Players like Gale Sayers, Tom Brady, John Elway, Allan Page, Dick Butkus, Brett Favre, Gino Marchetti and Walter Payton, along with coaches Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Paul “Bear” Bryant and Jerry Glanville, to name a few, have supported the East-West Shrine Bowl.

Watch live on NFL Network, or experience the action in-person on game day

Story Behind the Logo

 

East-West Shrine Game fans are familiar with the event’s logo. The image of a football player walking with a young girl appears on game posters, billboards, T-shirts, as well as on the website. Although the logo is famous, the story and the people involved are less well-known. Here is what happened: 

In 1974, a 2-year-old patient named Nicole was receiving care at Shriners Hospitals for Children® – San Francisco (later Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California). She was born with Holt-Oram syndrome, a genetic condition that affects bones in the arms and hands. For Nicole, this meant that her thumbs had not fully developed. To provide more functionality, surgeons removed her thumbs and repositioned her index fingers in their place. This procedure would allow Nicole to comb her own hair, button a shirt, hold a cup and be independent.

On the same day she was recovering from her first surgery, football players from the 1974 East-West Shrine Game visited the hospital. A tradition during the week of events leading up to the big football game, the visit gives players the opportunity to interact with patients and learn more about Shriners Hospitals for Children.

One of the players, Mike Esposito, noticed Nicole because she appeared scared and was crying. Esposito took her hand to calm her down and they walked down the hallway together. A photographer from a local newspaper noticed the scene and snapped a photo of the two new friends. The image perfectly depicts our mission, and became the inspiration for the official logo of the East-West Shrine Game.

Nicole has three children of her own and works with children with disabilities. Her son, Collin, was born with Holt-Oram syndrome and received treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California. Nicole recalls mixed emotions about her son's condition. “A part of me was obviously concerned, but another part felt secure because I knew this was the best place for him to be treated”.

When she returned to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California for her son's treatment, Nicole was stunned. Collin would be cared for by the same surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurse who had helped her as a child. “I was surprised that most of the staff was still there and remembered who I was. I think that’s what separates Shriners Hospitals for Children from everybody else; instead of treating you as a patient, they treat you as part of their family.”

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The newspaper image of Nicole and Mike Espoisito taken by Ken Yimm, Peninsula Times-Tribune, at the East-West Shrine Game players visit to Shriners Hospitals for Children in 1974.

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Nicole and her son Collin.

Reunited

In 1988, at the 63rd East-West Shrine Game in Stanford, Calif., Nicole and Mike Esposito were reunited. At halftime, in front of an emotional crowd, they walked across the field hand-in-hand. "It was definitely an exciting and nerve-wracking moment walking on the field in front of so many people,” said Nicole. “I remember Mike being extremely calm and comforting, just like he was when I first met him.”