More than 100 football players and cheerleaders lost out on participating in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic this summer, but their commitment to the game’s beneficiary was a win for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

In all, 113 of the 136 of the participants selected for the game decided to keep on fundraising even after the game — which was scheduled for this Saturday — was canceled in April. They raised more than $75,000, an effort that the Lobster Bowl Board of Directors “were blown away by,” according to Lobster Bowl President Joe Hersom.

“When this kind of all came down, we were looking at — I think at that point it was under $10,000 had been raised — and we knew we had to challenge the kids with something in order to keep them interested in fundraising,” Hersom said. “Most, as soon as we called them, their first question was ‘Well, can I still fundraise?’ Which is great to hear. But judging from where we were when this all came down, to think that we would ever get to the $75,000 mark, I don’t think any of us anticipated we ever would have reached that amount.”

That amount was down from a normal year’s total of anywhere between $100,000 to $120,000, but because there are no game expenses to take away from that amount the net proceeds that will be split between Shriners Hospitals in Boston and Springfield, Mass., will probably be the largest dollar amount the Lobster Bowl has ever given to each hospital, according to Hersom.

That potential record haul from the game came at just the right time for the Shriners.

“We’re very grateful for every dollar that was brought in. With everything going on, the Shrine has lost pretty much every fundraiser they have throughout the year,” Hersom said. “The Lobster Bowl is really the only thing that’s still generating fundraising money that’s going to go to the hospitals this year.”

Massabesic offensive lineman Jacob Breton was the top fundraiser overall, bringing in $4,280.

“I was very surprised by the amount that we ended up with, and it made me feel awesome to finish with that much because I want to do my part in helping such a great cause,” said Breton, who thought he would be one of the top fundraisers but was still surprised to see he raised the most.

Breton said he doesn’t look at his achievement as any kind of race, and he would have been perfectly happy to have someone out-fundraise him because it meant they pushed as hard as he did to raise money for the Shriners.

Colby VanDecker of Oxford Hills is tripped up by Ethan Guillemette of Sanford during the first half of a Class A quarterfinal in Nov. 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

 

He said much of his fundraising was done over the phone initially, avoiding knocking on doors during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks he began driving around and knocking on doors to raise as much as he could.

Oxford Hills running back Colby VanDecker was the top-fundraising player from the East squad, with a total of $2,695.

“Most of my fundraising was done by reaching out to friends and family members who were surprisingly generous. I also asked a few local businesses that were glad to donate and were also very generous,” VanDecker said. “I am very surprised at the amount I was able to raise. People, when asked, donated without hesitation knowing it was for the Shriners Hospitals.”

VanDecker said it felt good to continue to raise money for the Shriners.

“Even though the game had been canceled, I felt that raising money for the children who need the services of the Shriners Hospitals was most definitely worthy,” he said. “I was glad to see that most players still collected money, even with our unique situation.”

Samantha Fuller, Lawrence cheerleader Tori Fraser photo

Lawrence’s Samantha Fuller, representing the East, was the top fundraiser among cheerleaders with $2,445 raised.

Fuller said she made flyers that outlined the cause and information about her to hand out to local businesses that were still open during the pandemic. She said she set a fundraising goal for herself, “and once I reached the goal I wanted to keep going because I love giving back to other people.”

“It’s sad that (the game) was canceled, but that didn’t change the cause, so I kept pushing myself to raise as much money as I could,” Fuller added.

Hersom said all three top fundraisers will be given $500 scholarships for their efforts, but no other awards normally associated with the game will be handed out. He did say the board has some other stuff planned for the participants over the next couple weeks.

He also said the board has looked into ways to incorporate this year’s class into next year’s game, but admitted that will be difficult as participants move on to the next steps in their lives.

“We’re very open to suggestions, and we’ve had a number of them,” Hersom said.

“Hopefully next year things are somewhat back to normal where it’s Lobster Bowl as scheduled. But we’re going to try to keep honoring the 2020 participants as much as we can through this year and next year,” he added.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.