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East-West Shrine Bowl players team up with local patients ahead of all-star game

Posted at 11:21 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 23:21:05-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The 95th annual East-West Shrine Bowl weekend kicked off Friday at Tropicana Field with players teaming up with local patients from Shriners Hospitals for Children.

"You got to have a lot of heart and all these kids and all these patients have a lot of heart and that shows instantly as soon as you meet them," said senior Mitchell Wilcox, a tight end at USF.

Friday marked the Shriners Hospitals for Children Challenge, one day ahead of the annual East-West Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg.

Madelyn Hubbs, 19, took on a pair of NFL hopefuls to see who could tie their shoe fastest, only using one arm.

Hubbs was born premature without her left arm. She's now a patient ambassador with Shriners, teaching others about the challenges children with disabilities overcome.

"It allows them to walk in our shoes and know that we can do things, we just might do it in a different way and that’s OK," said Hubbs.

Despite giving college football players a 0:20 head start, Hubbs smoked the competition, including a standout safety from Illinois State, Luther Kirk.

"Bonding with them has just been a great experience that will carry with me for a lifetime," Kirk said.

It's an important weekend Atlanta Falcons offensive assistant Ben Steele never misses.

Steele spent five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and went to Shriners Hospitals for Children when his daughter needed an operation.

"The support that they had for our family, we’ll forever be grateful for that," said Steele.

The East-West Shrine Bowl is the nation's oldest all-star game. It starts at 3 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field.