Isabella Rose points to her family in the balcony during her heartfelt presentation detailing her time as a young Kora Hospital patient to the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl planning meeting on Sunday at the Kora Shrine Temple in Lewiston. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)(Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn) (Sun Journal photo by Andree Keh

LEWISTON — Silence filled the room of hundreds during the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic meeting on Sunday at Kora Shrine Temple.

Fittingly, it was Isabella Rose who broke it.

Rose was this year’s special guest and a former Shriners Hospital patient, who received treatment for a submucous cleft palate that was also diagnosed at the Shriners Hospital in Chicago. Before the treatment, which the Stuart, Florida native started receiving when she was five years old, she struggled to speak clearly and decided to “shut out the world” because she was made fun of and misunderstood.

But after a video presentation on her Shriners story, Rose appeared on stage and broke that silence with a rendition of “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. The now 15-year-old then confidently addressed the crowd.

Her message to the players, cheerleaders and coaches selected for this summer’s 30th annual Lobster Bowl including reminding the crowd how “blessed” they were to be able to speak without a second thought.

She encouraged to the crowd “don’t take your voice for granted,” and “I challenge you to use your voice.”

That challenge was heard by East team cheerleader Alivia Storer, from Edward Little, Who admitted to being “the shy type.”

“It kind of made a big impact, and now I realize like ‘Oh, I do have a voice, and I can use it,’ so I’m going to use it to the best of my ability and do what I can for whatever I need to be doing,” Storer said.

Even though she’s been cheering since she was around three years old, Storer said sometimes early in her high school career she wasn’t confident in letting out cheers during routines and performances, but by the time her senior season rolled around she had gained some of that needed confidence. And needless to say, when she performs with the East squad at July’s game she will be sure to keep Rose’s “inspiring” story close to heart and mind.

The lone EL representative will also use her voice to make new friends with her future Lobster Bowl teammates, which she is looking forward to. Sunday’s meeting was a first chance to meet coaches and fellow players/cheerleaders.

Oak Hill’s lone player, Caleb Treadwell, can in part relate to Rose.

Treadwell, who will be playing for the West, has dealt with a speech impediment his whole life, and said “in a way, yes, I do feel like that we have some stuff in common of how that we had to overcome those obstacles.”

“But in her situation it’s completely separate from mine, where mine wasn’t as severe as hers was,” Treadwell added.

As Lobster Bowl participants learn at the team meeting, the game is just as much — or even more — about supporting Shriners Hospitals for Children as it is about giving the state’s best graduating senior football players and cheerleaders one last chance to compete and perform. Kora Shrine Potentate Rick Hersom said close to $700,000 have been raised for Shriners Hospitals in the game’s 29-year history. That total will get a boost as the players and cheerleaders start doing their own fundraisers for the 30th installment of the game.

And Rose’s story should help the participants in their fundraising endeavors.

“I’m a very helpful person, and I do like to help as much as I can, so now that I’ve heard her story, I’ve seen how much that the (Shriners Hospitals) can do for these kids,” Treadwell said. “It just makes me want to go out and help them more, knowing that the Shriners can provide them with help, with treatments, with cures, with whatever is that they do.”

Tim Luttrell, a Kora Shrine member who is on the board at the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, told the participants “it’s not about how much, how little, whatever” they can raise.

“It’s going to make a difference in a child’s life,” he said.

Rose, speaking from personal experience and as someone who has been actively fundraising for Shriners Hospitals since her own treatment, added to Luttrell’s sentiment.

“You aren’t just playing a game … you’re changing the lives of children,” Rose said.

The Lobster Bowl’s message has long been “Strong legs run so weak legs can walk,” but this year’s participants — including Storer and Treadwell — now realize they are participating and fundraising for those kids who can’t use their voices to call out a play or a cheer.

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