GREENVILLE — Callie Coleman and her husband, Pat, wanted to wait until their son was old enough to enjoy the experience before bringing him to the Shriners Hospital to meet the Shrine Bowl teams. He took it all in on Sunday morning.
Cade Coleman, who is 3 years old and lives in Greenville, chatted, played games and high-fived players from North and South Carolina as they visited current and past patients before hitting the practice fields today to prepare for the all-star game.
The 76th Annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford. North Carolina won last year’s game 26-19, but South Carolina holds a 41-30-4 advantage in the series.
Cade, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down, has been a patient at Shriners since he was born.
“Shriners has become like a family to us,” Callie Coleman said. “We know we can come here when he needs help or any kind of assistance. They take us all in and love us. This was his first year coming, and he loves football, so he was excited to meet all of the players.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children provides care for thousands of kids with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.
Akia Booker, a receiver from Byrnes High and a finalist for South Carolina’s Mr. Football Award, said the visit to the hospital will be the highlight of his week.
“This has really shown me a lot,” Booker said. “I know these kids go through more things every day, more than we could ever imagine. It’s been great just being able to be here with these kids.”
Gaffney High linebacker Jaylen Miller said the trip was eye-opening.
“Being here today means everything to me,” Gaffney senior Jaylen Miller said. “It makes me appreciate everything I’ve been blessed with even more.”
The game raises money and awareness for the Shriners Hospitals for Children, an international health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing specialty pediatric care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs.
“The players get to learn the true meaning of this all-star game,” South Carolina offensive backs coach Mike Wells said. “It’s really about helping these kids live as normal of a life as possible.”
George Thompson, who is the vice chairman of the board of governors of the Greenville Shriners Hospital, expressed his appreciation to Spartanburg for its support of the game.
“They let us know they want the game, and they contribute above and beyond for it,” Thompson said. “We are grateful for Spartanburg.”