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Young Shriner Wears a Football Helmet and a Fez

Darth WinklerWhen you look at Darth Winkler, 18, of Lewistown, Ill., you may not expect to find out that this hard-hitting, all-state linebacker with a Mohawk is a Shriner. However, once you speak with him, you will quickly realize why this impressive young man is a natural fit for the fraternity. 

This past July, Darth became a member of Mohammed Shriners, Peoria, Ill., along with his father, Darren. They both decided to become Shriners because they wanted to be a part of something bigger and have a greater impact on the world. They also come from a family of Masons, as both of Darth’s great grandfathers were Masons.

“My family taught me at an early age to have good morals and respect for others,” said Darth. “Being a Shriner definitely allows us to be with people who share that mindset.”

Darth’s father is his high school football coach and also teaches at his high school. The two have always been extremely close.  “To be able to also call my dad 'Brother' means a lot to me and is something I will always cherish,” said Darth.

Darth and his father have already begun recruiting new members. Five of the coaches on Mr. Winkler’s coaching staff are Masons and are taking the necessary steps to become Shriners. In addition, many of Darth’s teammates have shown an interest and have asked questions about joining the fraternity.

“I think people my age just don’t know enough about Shriners and how many different options the fraternity has to offer,” said Darth. “Once they see up close what it is like to be a Shriner, their whole perception changes.” 

Darth and his teammates visited Shriners Hospitals for Children® – Chicago a few days before the 37th annual Shriners’ Illinois All-Star High School Football Game. Darth felt the visit was a life changing experience for the whole team.

“I think most of my teammates were shocked to learn that Shriners go out of their way to help children and ask for absolutely nothing in return,” said Darth. “Seeing all the patients there made us realize there is more to life than just football.”

Darth was also impressed by the hospital’s atmosphere.

“With all the different games and activities they have to surround the patients, you almost get the feeling that you’re not at a hospital.” said Darth.

In addition to being a talented football player, Darth also takes his education seriously. He is a member of the National Honor Society and graduated seventh in his class.

This fall Darth will be attending Beloit College in Wisconsin on a football scholarship. He hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a teacher and a football coach. Darth also plans to take on more of a leadership role within the fraternity.

“I could definitely see myself becoming Potentate one day,” said Darth. “But as of right now, my main focus is football and school.”

Learn more about becoming a Mason or Shriner at www.beashrinernow.com