The East-West Shrine All-Star Football Game has featured plenty of memorable football plays since the game moved to Baker City in 1973.

But though it’s a celebration of Oregon’s top players from the state’s smaller high schools, the Shrine game has always been about far more than touchdowns and tackles.

And no year has shown more clearly the core purpose of this annual event than 2020.

Because there was no event.

No football game at Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

No parade through downtown, with Shriners driving their comically tiny go-carts and bathtubs and Model Ts.

No Baker County Cattlewomen’s breakfast in Geiser-Pollman Park.

But the most important thing will happen, in defiance of the pandemic.

The East-West Shrine Game committee, as it does every year, will send a check to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland.

The place where it’s not hyberbolic to say that miracles happen.

For nearly half a century the Shrine Game in Baker City has been a major fundraising for the Portland hospital, which treats children, for free, for a variety of conditions.

The Shrine committee announced in early May that this year’s game, set for Aug. 1, was canceled due to the coronavirus.

But neither organizers, nor the dozens of people and businesses that donate to the hospital under the auspices of the game, were content with simply writing off the annual fundraiser.

Randy Guyer of Baker City, the committee’s treasurer, said Monday that he expects this year’s check to the Portland hospital will be in the $30,000 range, similar to the contribution in recent years.

That will include more than 100 donations from Baker County farmers and ranchers, $1,000 from the Haines Stampede Rodeo Association, and contributions from other individuals, businesses and Shrine clubs statewide.

There will also be the proceeds from the sale of the annual Shrine steer, a tradition that distinguishes the Baker City event from other fundraisers for Shriners hospitals. The steer — this year’s animal is a Black Angus cross raised by Ty Morrison, a 2020 Baker High School graduate — was bought by the Baker County CattleWomen and Cattlemen, and on Friday evening the steer, which Morrison named Chubby, will be “bought” and then re-donated several times.

The generosity and selfless spirit that so many people have shown in the midst of this pandemic and its economic deprivations are gratifying.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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