What began seven years ago as a small-town, grass roots effort to earn $8,000-plus to buy a motorized wheelchair, called a Go-Bot, for a 5-year-old Pine boy who suffered from spinal muscular atrophy, has blossomed into a charity that has earned and donated more than $40,000 to pay medical expenses for needy Rim Country children.
The Justice McNeeley Foundation, which is run entirely by unpaid volunteers, has a motto of “Help Us Help a Child” and helping is what the organization does best.
Just recently the foundation donated more than $3,600 to purchase a disabled boy a trainer to help him learn to walk; $5,500 to pay a surgery bill; $5,400 for dental braces; $2,400 to pay a child’s doctor bill; and more than $2,400 for specialized hearing aids.
“And that’s just some of the donations,” said Justice McNeeley Foundation member Katie Parks, also Justice’s mother.
When the original fund-raiser was completed in 2004 and the money for the Go-Bot was earned, there were funds left over.
Which prompted organizers, including Parks and fund chairman Chuck Collins, to make the decision to turn the foundation into a 501c3 non-profit organization and continue the quest to earn money, which would be donated to children in need.
“Dental, hearing, glasses, orthotics — anything they need, we try to provide,” said Collins.
Among the fund-raisers that helped earn money to purchase Justice’s wheelchair was a quad poker run on trails and pathways around Pine and Strawberry.
The poker runs have continued unabated since, and the eighth annual is set for Sept 17.
The actual run begins about 10 a.m. at the Rimside Grill and Cabins just south of Pine on the Beeline Highway.
Registration opens at 9 a.m. and the Grill will be offering a breakfast special for $3.99.
Following the run, prizes will be given for both the best and worst poker hands.
In the afternoon hours, a horseshoe tournament, raffles, auctions and a 50/50 drawing will highlight the celebration.
Also at the Rimside is a very nice volleyball court — the presence of which usually spawns several pick-up games.
Among the raffle prices is a Gentron Pro 2, 3000w portable generator valued at $500.
From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Bryan Higgens and the Whiskey Creek band will provide music.
With the run just over the horizon, Parks is issuing an invitation to “Come, dance and party down,” and of course, it’s all for a great cause.
For those who’ve never participated in a poker run, they are more than a good excuse to ride your quad, side-by-side or motorcycle.
The event begins with riders checking in and receiving a score sheet and route map. Typically there are five checkpoints along the route and each rider will draw a card at each stop.
After a card is drawn, it is noted on a score sheet and the rider moves on to the next checkpoint. Like a game of poker, the person with the best hand at the end of the ride is declared the winner. But in the upcoming run, the worst hand will also be prize money.
For more information, go online to www.justicemcneeleyfoundation.org/home.