Close your eyes and get comfortable. Imagine, if you will, a basketball court full of well-trained donkeys, complete with fragrant donkey waste. If you are anything like me, laughter has ensued by now. I was privileged to witness these shenanigans firsthand at the Medford Armory on Valentine’s Day. Two donkey basketball games and a small auction were part of a fundraiser for Hillah Shriners of Medford and Shriners Hospitals for Children. Having never heard of such a thing, I was pleasantly surprised that the building was full of children and adults of all ages eager to cheer on the players and the donkeys they were riding on.
I didn’t know what to expect going into the evening, other than people riding donkeys and shooting baskets. That is precisely what it turned out to be! While it may not have been a typical wine-drenched, rose-filled Valentine’s Day date, it was certainly entertaining, humorous, and heart-warming. Seated upstairs, we had a good view of the full court action. Children knelt down in front, clinging to the railings and peering through the bars, absolutely captivated with the games.
There were four players to a team, each one appropriately wearing either a blue or silver helmet. With the possibility of falling off that donkey on to concrete, no one can be too safe. Two referees were not only in charge of enforcing whatever minimal rules there were, but also herded the donkeys so they essentially stayed in a pack and didn’t wander mindlessly around the court. The first game was radio station 101.5 “the Wolf” against “Wolf Performance” of White City. The action was relatively slow, as donkeys tend to be laid back and stubborn animals. This was particularly obvious when a player would dismount in order to get the ball. It was quite comical to watch the animal hardly budge as they pulled on the reins! After two fifteen-minute halves, Wolf Performance came out on top.
During intermission, announcer Byron Millard of Millard Auction Company auctioned off two large teddy bears, the cheapest of which going for $60. After the donkeys got a little break, law enforcement showed up ready to rival. Game Two was the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department versus the Medford Police Department. Close and competitive, Medford Police took home the victory 8-6. Not the most high scoring basketball game, but great fun to watch nonetheless. With only an hour of actual playing time, the event was the perfect length to hold children’s attention (and mine for that matter).
According to the Hillah Shriners website, Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, truth, and relief. They are a fraternal organization for men of good character that promote self-improvement through education, leadership, and services and programs for members and their families. Shriners International founded Shriners Hospitals for Children in 1922 and continues to support it by raising funds, assisting patients’ families with transportation, volunteering on hospital boards, and much more. There are twenty-two facilities that are dedicated to improving the lives of children under the age of eighteen. Pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals are all provided regardless of the families’ ability to pay.
For more information on this organization visit shrinerhospitalsforchildren.org, shrinersinternational.org, or call the headquarters at 813-281-0300. Furthermore, if you would like to know how to become a Shriner, visit beashrinernow.com or call 800-537-4746.