For Peabody-Burns trombone player Tracey Henry and former Marion football player Morgan Wheeler, participating in the Kansas Shrine Bowl at Pittsburg State University was more than playing music or football. For them, it was a chance to make a difference for sick children.
“Through the event we raised money to help hospital patients,” Tracey said. “The money goes to the Shriners Hospital for Children.”
This was Tracey’s third year participating in the event as a member of the Kansas Masonic All-State Marching Band.
“The kids came to a campus building at Pitt,” Morgan said. “They were from 22 different Shriner Hospitals and had a bunch of different conditions.”
Along with band and teammates from across the state, Tracey and Morgan visited patients during a weeklong band and football camp that led up to Saturday’s football game.
Morgan started as offensive tackle for the West on Saturday but said the highlight of the event was meeting child patients.
He said a boy with a clubbed foot and no fingers on one hand showed him how he went through everyday life.
“The best part was watching him running around and driving his parents crazy just like other kids his age that don’t have his problems,” he said. “It really helped put things into perspective.”
Tracey said band members were hot and sweaty when they delivered toys and interacted with patients because they had been practicing outside before their visit.
“It feels amazing to meet the kids we are helping,” she said. “They were super positive, great, fantastic kids. They just fill you up with so much inspiration. They’re such strong people.”
Tracey liked knowing her musical endeavors contributed to helping someone else. She also felt a responsibility to play the music perfectly for patients who watched the game.
“We practiced the music a lot and tried to get everything just right,” she said. “But compared to other band camps, there wasn’t as much drilling. We did do some interesting things like sounding off by section as loud as we could.”
A member of the National Honor Society, Tracey has participated in other volunteer activities with the Humane Society, attended Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership workshops, and taken part in Ride for the Red Cross.
Morgan will be a freshman at Hutchinson Community College, where he will play football this fall. He said participating in the Shrine Bowl helped show him that he could compete at a higher level.
“We had two- and three-a-day practices for a week leading up to the game,” he said. “The first days were rough, but then I just started playing like I usually do.”
To claim his starting position as offensive tackle in the game, Morgan competed against eight other players.
“The game was a lot of fun,” he said. “It made it better that the West side won.”