LEWISTON — The beat of Dan Caro’s drums echoed through the room, but it wasn’t as loud as the applause that followed.
When Caro was 2 years old, he was severly burned in an accident at his home. He was treated for third degree burns over 80 percent of his body. Now an adult, Caro is an accomplished professional drummer, despite losing his hands in the accident. On Sunday, Caro was in Lewiston, to thank Shriner’s Hospitals for their help and to show the football players and cheerleaders selected to take part in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl what they are playing for in July.
“It’s a gift to be alive,” Caro said. “I survived through the phenomenal generosity of the Shriner’s Hospitals. After 80 surgeries, I have nothing but graditude for my life.”
The 25th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl will be played on July 19, at 6 p.m. at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field. The game raises money for Shrine Hospitals for Children. Each player and cheerleader selected to participate is asked to raise at least $400. Last year, the average raised was $575, event athletic director Jason Fuller said, and the game raised $90,000 in 2013.
Players, cheerleaders and their families attended a meeting at the Kora Shrine Center on Sunday, to meet coaches and learn about the meaning of the game. After watching a brief film on Caro, they were surprised when the screen came up to reveal Caro at his drums. After playing, Caro, now a Shriner himself, told his story.
“It was amazing to see him come out, and his speech was so inspirational. It just makes me want to raise as much money as I can,” Lawrence High School offensive lineman Kyle McLain said. “There’s a lot more to it than just a football game.”
Added Cony High School quarterback Ben Lucas: “It was really powerful, and got everyone to understand what the true meaning of the game really is. It puts it in perspective, how fortunate we are. When we’re in the game, we’re going to be fighting for guys like him, not just playing a game.”
Caro said he’s happy to pay forward the kindness given him at Shriner’s hospitals. He point to his fez, worn by all Shriner’s.
“You guys are part of this team now,” Caro said. “To wear my fez is an honor.”
Players will report to training camp at Hebron Academy on July 13. Cheerleaders will open camp on July 14, at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Deborah Loveless of Oxford Hills High School is the head cheering coach. Cony’s Robby Vachon will coach the East squad, while Joe Rafferty of Kennebunk will coach the West.
Maine Central Institute lineman Briar Bussell said he spoke with his coach, Tom Bertrand, about playing in the Lobster Bowl. Bertrand will be the East defensive coordinator. They focused on the good the game does, not on X’s and O’s.
“We talked about what it’s about. We’ll discuss football stuff later,” Bussell said.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty special game. We’re all tremendous football players, but I think we’re better people, too,” Lucas said. “When we all come together, that’s just going to make it a special game and a good event.”