BUTTE — The 76th Annual East-West Shrine game kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m., and football is the draw for fans.
But the outcome of the game is far from the most important part of the week. This event is about raising funds and awareness for the Shriner’s Children Hospital in Spokane.
That’s where the patient ambassador comes in. This year’s ambassador is 8-year old Gavin Devers from Dillon, a second grader who loves football.
This week has been like a dream. He’s spent time with the West team ahead of the Shrine game, playing catch, running drills. He even took a handoff and ran 30-yards for a touchdown during practice.
”I was running behind him with the camera, just letting guys dive in front of me,” said his dad Weston Devers. “It almost brought me to tears watching him run and score his touchdown.”
Just watching him run, it’s easy to notice that Gavin doesn’t move like other kids his age. His problems started shortly after his first birthday.
“We noticed early on he wasn’t meeting milestones and then we got him into physical therapy when he was 18 months,” Weston said. “He didn’t really start walking until he was almost two. So it’s been a long journey and we’re still moving forward with it.”
Gavin has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a disorder characterized by weakness and easting of the muscles used for movement. You’ll also notice that it doesn’t slow him down. Despite his challenges, Gavin always has a smile on his face.
"Gavin is a ball of energy. Everything he does, he's all out there,” Weston said. “He loves his bike. He loves baseball. Oh, I just can't say enough about the kid. He makes us happy every day.”
That’s thanks to the care he receives at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Spokane.
“It’s like the coaches here, they're always there to help the kids,” Weston said. “They're interacting and just being fun and making it easy for the kids to just be there. And it's not scary. It's a great experience.”
Gavin’s presence in Butte for Shrine week has helped keep the players’ focus on the purpose behind the game.
“We have a motto Bigger Than Me, BTM, and that's what we kind of live by because we know we're doing it for them. This game's not for us,” said West team center Jesse Hughes of Dillon. “It's for kids like Gavin and it just really it feels good being able to help kids like Gavin.”
The 76th Montana East-West Shrine Game will be broadcast and streamed live across Montana Television Network platforms on Saturday.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Naranche Stadium in Butte. The telecast begins at 6 with a fundraiser telethon to benefit Shriners Children's Hospital of Spokane, Washington.