Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The economy, according to the cold, hard statistics assembled by analysts, remains in the doldrums.

But there are other measurements, ones which warm the heart.

The generosity of Northeastern Oregon residents is as lively as ever.

Perhaps even more so.

Consider what has happened, or soon will happen, around here this summer.

Last weekend the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life, an event which is the product of hundreds of volunteers, raised more than $60,000 for cancer research.

Over the past eight years these annual relays have brought in more than $500,000.

This Saturday the East-West Shrine All-Star Football Game at Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium will add more than $100,000 to the coffers of the Shriner's Hospital for Children in Portland.

Last year's game raised $130,000.

But the extraordinary part of this story isn't even those two traditional events.

We're gratified too by how quickly the region has responded to the plight of Jason and Stacy Bingham, the Baker Valley couple who have already had one of their five children, daughter Sierra, undergo a heart transplant. Now Sierra's younger sister, Lindsey, is awaiting a heart transplant. And the Binghams' three other children have been diagnosed with heart problems that could also require life-saving surgery.

Even with insurance, which the Binghams have, the bills could easily surpass the million-dollar threshold.

And although the Binghams have never asked for help, a series of fundraisers in July, including auctions at the Haines Stampede Rodeo and the Baker City Bull and Bronc events, raised tens of thousands of dollars.

"I just cannot believe the generosity of people," said Jeanette Thompson, who is helping to organize a fundraising auction for the Binghams on Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. at the North Powder School.

Another Baker County girl, 9-year-old Tyalinn Harrison of Huntington, needs surgery to repair a hole in her heart. Organizers of a benefit auction and dinner set for Aug. 9 hope to raise $5,000 to help the Harrison family.

If the event - it starts at 5 p.m. at the Baker City Seventh-Day Adventist Church - brings in more than $5,000, the organizers will donate the surplus dollars to the Binghams.

The bottom line is that even when dollars are precious, local residents have responded to the extraordinary difficulties of their neighbors with generosity that's equally extraordinary.