While touring the high country woods north of Pine and Strawberry atop an ATV or side-by-side is sheer enjoyment, the Justice McNeeley Foundation’s annual poker ride, held Sept. 17, means much more to children in need.
The profits from the ride benefit the foundation, which uses the funds to help pay medical expenses of children whose families can’t afford the care.
Just recently the foundation donated more than $3,600 to purchase a trainer to help a disabled boy 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.
The foundation debuted 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 then 5-year-old Justice McNeeley, who suffered from spinal muscular atrophy.
Due to the overwhelming success of the original event, organizers decided to continue the benefit poker rides with the goal of helping even more children.
This year, needs are even greater than in the past.
“With the economy the way it is, we are overwhelmed with applications for children needing medical support and we never want to be in the position to have to turn a child down because of funds,” said Katie Parks, the foundation’s promotion director.
Organizers, including treasurer Patricia Lunsford and Parks, are calling Saturday’s poker ride and festivities, an overwhelming success despite a slight drop in participation.
“We made up for those (losses) with more and better raffles and prizes and a Texas Hold ’Em poker tournament,” Parks said.
Lunsford believes it was also the generosity of participants and those who donated prizes that made the ride a success, “They dug very deep in their pockets to help us and the children out.”
While final tabulations are not yet in, Lunsford estimated the run earned between $8,000 and $9,000 for the foundation.
Of that total, the Pine-Strawberry Riff Raff Club generously donated $500.
Among the most coveted raffle prizes on poker run day was a Gentron Pro 2, 300w portable electric generator that was won by Mike Claxton.
Leslie McCauley pocketed prize money for the best poker hand — four threes and Jessie Wallace finished with the lowest hand — a nine-high.
In the hotly contested horseshoe tournament, Jim Jones and Forrest Miller took top honors.
The host Rimside Grill team won the volleyball tournament and donated all the prize money back to the McNeeley Foundation.
In the Texas Hold ’Em shootout, Michael Santopadre was first and Paul McDermott second.
The actual ride began at 10 a.m. at Rimside Grill near Pine and continued west on Hardscrabble Road and into the Tonto National Forest before wrapping up at the original starting line.
For more information about the foundation e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to: http://www.justicemcneeleyfoundation.org/ blog/entry/2069173/jmf-fundraiser-flyer-091711.