By Hayley Young
The East West Shrine Game is celebrating its 75th competition! This football game of East meets West has been played annually since 1947. If you’re doing the calculations, that is 76 years, but like everything else, 2020 put the game on hold. Here they are at game number 75, having raised over two million dollars, all while raising awareness for the incredible work that Shriners Children’s (formerly “Shriners Hospitals for Children”) has been doing for more than 100 years.
Shriners Children’s focuses on providing quality specialized medical care for children and families regardless of their ability to pay. Money raised during the East West Shrine Game goes to the Shriners Children’s hospital in Spokane, helping them to care for patients and continue their innovative research. Funding also helps patients with travel expenses to and from the hospital.
In recent years, the Montana Shrine game has become one of the most successful in the country. Montana’s top graduating senior football players from across the state are chosen to battle in an East meets West brawl that will be played in Great Falls. These young men are nominated by their coaches, and then a group of Shriners members, coaches, referees, and collegiate sport staff convene to narrow the field to 40 players for each team (with a list of around 20 alternates). The selection is based on the nominations of their coaches as well as their accomplishments on the field. The players are selected from all school classes.
In 2022, the East team will have two players from 6-man football, and both teams will have one player from Canada.
On Sunday, June 12, players from the West will assemble in Butte, while players from the East will arrive in the Electric City. For five days, the players get put through the paces with 3-a-day practices. The week is not all work, however. Players will attend a banquet, take part in Media Day, ride in the parade, and make enduring friendships. On Friday, the West team will make the trek from Butte to Great Falls.
Through a similar process, cheerleaders are chosen to represent their side of the state. Cheerleaders submit an essay and a video. Based upon their submissions, the two cheer teams are created. Their week begins on Wednesday. They too have multiple practices a day to get ready for the big game on Saturday night.
Shriners Children’s patients are put at the forefront of the week. They attend practices and take part in events. The Salsbery family of Malta have more than one reason to find game number 75 extra special. Their daughter, CeCe, who required medical care from Shriners Children’s has been selected as one of the two 2022 patient ambassadors. Their youngest son, Cash, will represent the East as a linebacker. Cash has dreamed of playing in the East West Shrine Game since childhood and even donned a coconut bra and grass skirt to help raise money for the hospital.
CeCe has dubbed game #75 “Her Game.” A happy, healthy 8-year-old, she is excited to cheer on her brother and to meet the ambassador of the West, Mazie Myers (age 7).
For more information about Shriners Children’s, visit shrinerschildrens.org/en.
For tickets, souvenirs, or information about the 75th East West Shrine Game, visit montanaeastwestshrinegame.org.
The two teams will collide on Saturday June 18. Kickoff is at 7pm sharp.