SPENCER - Emmetsburg football standout Andrew Wellik was one of several northwest Iowa senior preps honored Wednesday night in Spencer at a gathering of Iowa Shrine All Star Game players. The banquet was held at the Masonic Temple and was hosted by the Spencer area Shriners of the AbuBekr Shrine Temple of Sioux City.
Players heard from both head coaches for the 41st Annual Iowa Shrine All-Star game, which will be played for the first time on Saturday, July 27 at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.
North Squad Head Coach Mike Dirksen of Mason City Newman High School told the players that building character was just as important for each player as their athletic ability. "Playing in the Shrine Bowl is about each of you learning how to serve, rather than being served."
The Iowa Shrine All-Star Football Game was established by a group of sports minded Iowa Shriners after having seen the success of Shrine sponsored Football Games in other states. The first All-Star Football and Basketball games were played in 1973 in Iowa City. In 1974, after much dedicated work, the indebtedness was paid off. The contributions from this annual event now total over $2,268,000 in support of The Shriner's Hospitals for Children programs. The Iowa Shrine Bowl Game is sponsored jointly by the four Shrine Temples in the state: Abu Bekr in Sioux City; El Kahir in Cedar Rapids; Kaaba in Davenport; and Za-Ga-Zig in Altoona.
Jerry Hoffman serves as the General Manager of the All-Star game and has served in that position for over 20 years.
"Your participation in this game is a way for the Shrine to plant seeds - you are the seeds that will grow to help the kids, and hopefully, you will also help the Shriners do what we do to help the kids," Hoffman said.
According to Hoffman, the average Shrine All Star football game in the US raises $21,318 yearly for the 25 games that are played. However, Iowa's All Star game raised $68,000 in 2012, the third highest total in the country.
With 22 Shrine Hospitals operating in the country, the operating budget for 2013 totals $843 million. All services offered to children at Shrine Hospitals are free of charge to children up to age 18.
The Iowa Shrine Bowl game proceeds are shared between five hospitals located in Minneapolis,MN; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Galveston, TX and St. Louis, MO.
To come up with the two Shrine Bowl teams for the game, 46 graduating high school seniors are selected for each squad by the coaching staffs. The division line for the North and South basically is Highway 30 as it crosses the State, East to West, with the western extension from Denison to Onawa. All schools bordering Highway 30 have players on the South Squad, except for the Cedar Rapids schools where the players are on the North Squad. The exception is Cedar Rapids Prairie, which represents the South Squad. In 1986 the number of players was increased from 40 to 44 to permit participation of more small schools on the All-Star squads. In the 2002 game an additional kicker was added and in 2006 a punter was added for a total of 46.
Each fall football coaches across the state are asked to submit recommendations for an offensive ad a defensive player from their teams whom might be good representative of his school and community.
The player must not only be a good athlete, but also must be academically successful, as well as active in their school and community activities.
In July the Iowa High School Football Coaches Association selects a Head Coach for each Squad. Those coaches then select five assistants to represent each of the classes of football: Class 4-A, 3-A, 2-A, and 1A/A. and 8-Man.
The respective North and South coaching staffs then meet and select the players from the nominations submitted earlier by their coaches. Every effort is made to select players from across the State, with a representative balance in the number of players from each Shrine Center jurisdiction.
Several years ago, the Shrine added an All-Star Cheerleader program to the All Star Game, which has been very successful. Cheerleaders are nominated by their schools and must attend a tryout, which is conducted in January. Professional trainers, who act as judges, assist in the selection of 60 cheerleaders for this program.
This year the Shriners will hold a "Mini-Camp" on campus at UNI on July 26 for the hospital children. All children will work with the football players and cheerleaders to learn skills of football and cheerleading. The player and cheerleader's enthusiasm for the day of this annual game is heightened, when they see how the profits from this game are helping hundreds of Iowa's physically handicapped children.
The Iowa Shrine All-Star game is an event, which extends the maximum visibility to the Shiner's great philanthropy 18 orthopedic hospitals, 3 burn centers, and 1 which treats all types of needs in North America.