LEWISTON — Katherine Marchessault understands the impact sports have on high school athletes. A car accident taught her the impact that others can have in times of need.

Marchessault was one of three speakers who shared their experiences of treatment and care provided by the Shriners Hospitals for Children at the Kora Shrine Temple on Sunday.

The meeting introduced football players and cheerleaders selected to participate in this year’s Lobster Bowl to who is helped by their fundraising efforts for the annual all-star game.

Marchessault’s accident while she was in high school left her with third-degree burns on her leg, a broken pelvis and broken bones in her foot. The care she received at Shriners Hospitals allowed her to continue playing soccer, first at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, and now for the Northeastern University women’s team.

Sunday was her first time speaking in front of a large crowd about her experience.

“I am who I am because of soccer, and I am who I am because of Shriners, so without them I just wouldn’t be me, so I couldn’t be more thankful,” Marchessault said. “It’s quite an honor to be able to speak in front of all these athletes, as a fall athlete myself. I’ve never experienced something like this and it’s amazing. Being able to come and speak is huge.”

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Players and cheerleaders selected for the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic each year are required to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals.

Marchessault and the other two speakers, Danielle Williams and Nick Richard, provided perspective on the ultimate objective of the football game, which will be held July 16 at Lewiston High School.

“I don’t think I really understood what Kora Shrine was about when I was coming to the Christmas tree festivals,” said Poland Regional High School’s Izabella Martin, who is a cheerleader in the winter and a football player in the fall. “But hearing their stories, I understand what they’re doing now and it makes it all the more worth it.”

Richard, a Lewiston native, started going to Shriners Hospitals in 1988 after he contracted meningitis when he was 6 years old and had to have parts of both of his arms and legs amputated.

He said that the hospitals helped him get new prosthetic legs as his body grew.

“This organization has helped me and my family through one of the toughest things we’ve had to do,” Richard said. “Any time they ask me, I am not really obligated, but the least I can do is to come and tell my story and what Shriners is all about.”

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Williams talked about the treatment and care Shriners Hospitals have provided her 11-year-old step-daughter, Emily.

Emily Williams, who attends Fairview Elementary in Auburn, was in a car crash when she was 3 and immediately needed a wheelchair and a walker. The Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia has helped her every year by providing the treatment and equipment she needs.

The Kora Shrine Temple in Lewiston has become almost a second home for Emily.

“She is the celebrity here,” Danielle Williams said. “She walks in and everyone knows her. Like I said, it’s a family. Right now she’s downstairs and someone took her to help in the kitchen. I don’t have to worry about her, she’s safe in these walls and she feels comfortable enough to be herself here.”

Hearing the three speakers’ stories helped the cheerleaders and players look beyond the football game.

“It definitely motivated me and inspired me to do a lot more and it changed my views on stuff,” Marshwood High School football player Cameron Cornette said.

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lobster Bowl was canceled in 2020 and last year was played as an eight-team, 7-on-7 touch football round-robin tournament.

This year, the 32nd edition of the Lobster Bowl is slated to return to normal: two teams playing 11-on-11 tackle football with cheerleaders performing and fans filling the stands.

Lisbon’s Chris Kates, who will coach the West team at this year’s Lobster Bowl, and Foxcroft’s Dan White will lead the East. Both were selected to lead those teams before the 2020 game was called off.

Kates is glad the game is back to normal, and that its purpose, raising money to help the Shriners Hospitals help those in need, is also back to normal.

“I’m excited to get out there with the game being played at a full capacity,” Kates said. “Last year, it was good to do something, but it only raised a fraction of the money, so I am excited to have a full week (of practice) and do this all the right way … (the fundraising) ties it all together with what the week is really about. We get focused on the football aspect of it, but it’s a lot bigger than football.”

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