MEDFORD -- Just over a month after the Camp Fire devastated Northern California, wiping away most of the town of Paradise, Southern Oregon did its part to help that community heal. Through an instrument drive, the region got more than 60 instruments to give the Paradise Adventist Academy, which lost many of its own instruments in the blaze.
Heidi Wiggers headed the effort for Rogue Valley Adventist Academy and was blown away by the scale the instrument drive grew to.
"It's been phenomenal, the response of the community," Wiggers said, "It's just incredible. Instruments have come from Portland, Walla Walla, Washington, from the Coast and all around the Rogue Valley."
The school presented the instruments to Paradise Adventist between the girls and boys basketball games between the two academies. Camp Fire survivors who were on hand were overwhelmed.
"I sat there and cried in the stands as they were talking about tall those instruments," Maureen Wisener said, "That is a huge gift. We are a small school and we have a very, very dedicated music program."
It wasn't long ago that Wisener and Ruth McLarty were caught in the Camp Fire with seemingly no way out.
"We got stuck in traffic, so we drove through flames to get to an intersection where we sheltered in place under cover from water from the fire trucks," Wisener recalls.
"One person whose car burned jumped out and got in my car," McLarty remembers, "She didn't even know whose car she was in and then she said, 'We're going to die,' and I said, 'I know.'"
But music, like basketball, the game being played before and after the instrument presentation, helps provide an escape for kids whose worlds were turned upside down by the devastating wildfire.
"To me, for a sports department, we needed to try our best to continue on as scheduled," Paradise Adventist Academy Head Girls & Boys Basketball Coach Jason Eyer said, "Just to give them an outlet, something to do, and it's been such a positive thing for us to be involved in something other than thinking about what's going on back home."
This is the latest show of support for Paradise, a small community put on the map in the midst of the tragedy it suffered. For the community members now putting the pieces back together, its gestures like the one at Rogue Valley Adventist on Saturday night that keep pushing them forward.
"It puts a good place in your heart to see there's actually people that care and that there's good people in the world that want to help when there's somebody in need," Eyer said, "It's definitely been awesome to see people step forward."
"It's really overwhelming. It makes you cry that people think that much that they want to help you, even people who don't know you feel like, 'I want to help,'" Wisener said, "It shows that there's real, real goodness in our community and in our country."
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