Enterprise’s Blu Risseeuw competed in the East-West Shrine Game Aug. 3 in Baker City. The West won the game, 33-23. (Observer file photo)
Enterprise’s Risseeuw reflects on Shrine Game
Sometimes being a great athlete comes with responsibility — something Blu Risseeuw learned as a member of the East team for the Shriners all-star football game, held earlier this month in Baker City.
Each of the young men from 1A to 4A schools around the state were chosen for their talent on the field, but throughout the little more than a week that they came together to prepare for the game, they got a taste of what it’s like to think beyond themselves.
Risseeuw said the teams practiced separately, ate meals together, played Ping Pong in the evening and squeezed in some good-natured heckling along the way.
“Both East and West were really on one team — we were all there for the same reason — for the kids,” Risseeuw said.
“The motto for the Shriners game participants is ‘Strong legs, so weak legs walk,’” Risseeuw said.
The Shriners East-West all-star football game is the biggest fundraiser each year for the children’s hospital in Portland. Before the kids started practice, they met up in Wilsonville at the Al Kader Shrine Center to get a feel for what the Shriners hospitals are all about.
Every year, the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children provide care for thousands of kids with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate, in a family-centered environment regardless of the patients’ ability to pay, since 1922.
The teams got to visit with patients at the hospital the following day before heading east for a week of practice at Eastern Oregon University. One of the patients the boys met was from Cove, close to home.
“Seventeen kids from Wallowa County have used the Shriners Hospital,” Risseeuw said.
After the tour of the Shriner facilities, the boys put their heads into football, practicing twice a day for a week.
“Everyone knew what they were doing, just the calls were different,” he said.
He said being away from home was hard, but it’s just a taste for what’s to come — he leaves for Lewis-Clark State College soon.
Risseeuw is the consummate athlete, excelling not only at football, but he was chosen for the first-team all-league in basketball and for the state all-star team in baseball.
He couldn’t attend the baseball game due to his sister’s wedding, but made space for the Shriners game for which he was notified by Enterprise Athletic Director Dan Moody last winter.
Several of his friends showed their support and traveled to Baker City for the all-star game.
“It was a good crowd,” he said.
Risseeuw’s mother, Heather Risseeuw, said, “I was moved a little bit at the game. The boys are not just chosen for their athleticism.”
His parents have both been wildland firefighters, a popular job among young people in Wallowa County, but because of the Shriners game he took a couple of restaurant jobs this summer and the owners were willing to give him time off for the game.
He said he may pursue firefighting next summer after his first year of college.
Risseeuw became a regular in the sports pages as an athlete for the Elgin Huskies before he moved to Enterprise for his senior year.
“It was a transition, but it was a good move,” Risseeuw said.
Northeast Oregon can seem like a small community and because Risseeuw has played sports against kids from Wallowa County since Little League, the transition was relatively smooth.
Now he’s starting at a new school again in a few weeks.
Will he continue to play sports? He said he has a new mountain bike that he’s excited to try out in Lewiston, Idaho, and looks forward to swimming in the Snake River and skiing at Bluewood outside of Dayton, Wash.
“I might try out for baseball, but I kind of just want to go to school,” Risseeuw said.