Counting the number of volunteers and the man hours it took to pull off the 2013 Montana East-West Shrine Game in the Mining City is nearly impossible.
Two numbers that can be counted, however, make those involved in the game very, very happy.
Recently, a group of members from the Bagdad Shrines traveled to Spokane to present a giant $146,000 check to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane, Wash.
That number made the Montana game, which was played in Butte for the second time in its 67-year history, the No. 1 Shrine game in the nation.
“This just shows how great the people are from Butte, Southwest Montana, and all those across our great state,” said Montana Shrine Game board member R.J. Olson.
A visit to the hospital for the check presentation reaffirmed just that, said Butte Shriner Jeff Hartwick.
“It was really cool,” Hartwick said. “We got to meet two of the patients who were there. My kids were there, and they were really impressed with the hospital and the kids that they got to meet. It was neat.”
When in Spokane, the Shriners took a tour of the hospital that touched the hearts of the Butte contingent.
“The check presentation and tour reinforced how important the Shrine Hospital is to the people of Montana,” said Mark Zora of Butte. “Many Montana kids are helped by the Shriners hospital and are able to lead happier lives after they have been treated. Shriners provides expert care for kids that cannot be provided anywhere else in the state.”
The Bagdad Shriners began an effort to move the game from Great Falls several years ago. The game was played at Bulldog Memorial Stadium in Butte in 2010. Billings hosted the game in Laurel in 2011 before it returned to Great Falls in 2012.
The 2013 contest was played at Naranche Stadium in Butte last July, and this year’s game will be back in Laurel.
The game, which showcases the best football players who recently graduated high school, will continue to rotate between the three cities.
So far, Butte has far and away been the top money maker.
“We have been very successful the past few years in getting some funds to go to the hospital,” Hartwick said. “From what we’re told, we were the No. 1 game in the country as far as donations to the hospital. We’ve come a long way in the past several years thanks to Butte, Southwest Montana and everybody else who helped out.”
Hartwick said the hospital staff was impressed with the donation, to say the least.
“Everybody that we met just couldn’t say enough nice things about our game and the things that we’re doing to help those guys over there,” he said.
The $146,000 figure is one that the Butte Shrines are extremely proud of. However, it is a record they hope is broken by the Billings group this summer because all that money goes to help children.
“It’s a friendly competition between the three towns,” Hartwick said. “We’re helping them right now. We’re fundraising in Butte and doing those things. Hopefully they do break it and that gives us another goal to reach.”
When the group first fought to move the game to Butte, it never imagined the game would raise the kind of money that it has.
Olson said that is a tribute to the people around the state.
“The support of our game and the Shriners Hospital in Spokane has been tremendous and we look forward to building on this success each year,” Olson said. “Thanks again to everyone who has helped make the Montana East-West Shrine game so successful.”