JOSEPH — Jonah Staigle was excited when he saw the email telling him he had been selected to take part in the Shriners East-West All-Star Game, which returns in August after a year away due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Oh, man, it’s an honor,” the Joseph senior said. “(Head coach) Duncan (Christman) talked to me, he put me and Juston (Rogers) both in there.
“I got the email the other day. That was crazy.”
Staigle and 43 others received that email, telling them they would be part of the 69th Shriners game, which is a major fundraiser for Shriners Children’s Hospital in Portland.
“It’s amazing to be able to have the game back,” said Zachary Steele, first vice chairman and player personnel manager. “This year would have been our 70th game.
“It’s the largest fundraiser in the Northwest for Portland Shriners Hospital. Being able to have a game and get those dollars to help kids walk is amazing.”
The pandemic canceled last year’s game, but there was hope the game would be able to resume this summer. Steele said the big lift came when state sanctions on full-contact football in Oregon were lifted.
“It’s always been the goal since we canceled the game last year,” he said.
Steele said the players that get selected among the nominees are those who coaches believe are not only talented, but who are tops in character. The players are nominated and selected by coaches.
“No. 1 we want high-character kids, and No. 2 we want your best athletes,” Steele said, noting the game is, after all, an all-star game.
Staigle does know some about the history of the game and the impact it has.
“I’ve heard a little bit about. I know it’s been going on for quite a while. I remember telling my mom, and she freaked out telling me how it was a big deal when she was in high school here,” he said. “It definitely is an honor to get picked for it.”
Past traditions have been for players to tour the Shriners campus in Wilsonville to meet children who are in the hospital.
That won’t be possible this year due to COVID restrictions, but Steele said players still will be able to see how the game — and, more specifically, the funds raised by it — help children and families.
“We still are going to get the kids exposure to what they are playing for,” Steele said.
The game traditionally generates about $25,000 for the hospital, which provides orthopedic, burn, cleft lip and cleft palate care — all for free to families.
“The hospital, No. 1, is at no cost to nobody, ever. We do not bill parents for the cost of care,” Steele said.
Staigle said now the hope is he can get on the field, as a lingering injury has limited him in wrestling this summer.
“I guess the first thing I thought of was my injury, hoping it doesn’t hold me back,” he said. “I was really surprised, definitely. Didn’t think I was going to get a spot on the roster.”
There are four Union County and one Wallowa County athlete on the alternate list who still could find their way on the field.
“If a kid declines (or) gets injured, we then go to the alternate list,” Steele said. “Every year we have five to 10 alternates who get selected to play.”
The game is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, in Baker City.