LEWISTON — Wade Colon saw his former Edward Little teammates Cody Goddard and Sean Daigle win last year’s Lobster Bowl with some dramatic, game-ending heroics and has since dreamed of being the hero in Maine’s annual all-star football game.

“I saw Cody and Sean make that play at the end of the game (an 8-yard TD pass to give the East a 17-16 win) and it just made me want to play in the game so bad,” Colon said. “I said ‘I’ve got to get into that game. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to get in.'”

A burly lineman, Colon probably won’t throw or catch a game-winning touchdown in the 21st Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, but he learned Sunday how he can still be a hero to the game’s beneficiaries, the children who are treated by the 22 Shriners Hospitals.

Colon was among more than 160 players and cheerleaders who gathered at the Kora Temple for the annual Lobster Bowl team meeting. The meeting introduces the participants to the Lobster Bowl and the cause it supports.

Since it began, the Lobster Bowl has raised more than $360,000 for the hospitals. To help offset the cost of putting the game on, which according to the Shriners is around $100,000, participants are expected to raise at least $300 from their own communities through fund-raising efforts such as sponsorships and selling advertisements in the game program.

The team meeting is always an eye-opener for those who make the Lobster Bowl the ultimate capper to their high school careers, and it was no different for the ones who will take center stage this July 24 at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field.

“When I first heard of the game, I thought it was just an all-star game for the players,” Colon said. “Coming here, I see it’s more than that. You raise money to help out the hospitals and it makes me want to get out there and raise some money for the Shriners.”

The Shriners also use the meeting to put a human face to the game’s slogan — “Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk.” This year’s guest speaker was Caitlin Bazinet, 19, of Winthrop, who recalled the horrific December 2008 car accident that left her with fourth degree burns over 60 percent of her body, a spinal fracture and a shattered eye socket.

Bazinet spent more than six months recovering in Boston-area hospitals, including the Shriners Burns Hospital in Boston. Through intensive rehabilitation there, she learned to walk on two prosthetic feet and received her high school diploma at Winthrop High School’s June graduation ceremonies. She was recently fitted for new prosthetics at Shriners and is living back home in Winthrop.

“”I can pretty much do everything now that I did the rest of my life, except maybe tie my hair in a ponytail and stuff like that. Other than that, it’s pretty much normal. The Shriners is a really great place,” Bazinet told an audience of more than 400 players, cheerleaders, coaches and families. “They will always do anything for me. Anything I wanted, they would get for me. Anything that I wanted to do, they would make sure I did it.”

“This is a really good cause,” added Bazinet, who tossed the coin at last year’s game. “It really is a huge help, and the game is a lot of fun.” 

The West leads the series all-time, 15-5, and Colon, who will play for the East, was already eager to help turn that around before Sunday. After hearing Bazinet describe how the Shriners turned her life around, Colon said he’s even more motivated, and the game’s final score didn’t have anything to do with it.

“Caitlin was actually very inspiring,” Colon said. “It lifts my spirit up higher hearing that.”

Joining Colon on the East squad will be Leavitt’s Matt Pellerin, Eric Theiss and Josh Strickland; Kris Gagne and Ronnie Turner of Lewiston; Ryan Backus of Mt. Blue and Nate Dubois of Oxford Hills. The West includes Nic Crutchfield of Dirigo; Gray-New Gloucester’s Taylor Valente; Austin Clark of Jay; Lisbon’s Art Stambach; Ben Foss of Oak Hill; Josh Cooper of Poland and Corey Staples of Winthrop.

Bill County of Lewiston and Kevin Cooper of Bonny Eagle will be head coaches of the East and West, respectively. Mike Hathaway of Leavitt, Darren Hartley, formerly of Edward Little, and Brad Bishop of Livermore Falls will serve as assistants. Cheerleader coaches include Deb Loveless of Oxford Hills and Lynnette Morency of Lewiston.