It’s not too early to begin planning for the upcoming Lorraine Cline Memorial Fund Poker Ride and Raffle that has become one of the fastest growing and most popular benefits in the Rim Country.
This year the ride is set for April 28 with registration beginning at 9 a.m. and the ride starting one hour later at the O-bar-C ranch in Tonto Basin. Poker cards are available at $20 per hand and prizes will be paid for first, second and third best hands.
While the benefit’s only been in existence for four years, it’s attracting droves of followers from the Rim Country, southern Gila County and the Valley.
This year, the route has undergone some changes from past runs, but remains about 40-plus miles and is expected to take most of the day because there will be several stops along the way to receive playing cards that will make up each entrant’s poker hand. A stop will also be made where riders can enjoy a picnic lunch they pack and bring along.
One of the most fascinating stops is the now abandoned Copper Mountain mining site.
The route also passes through the Buzzard Roost Ranch just off FR 416.
It’s a celebratory and festive outing designed to tickle the fancy of most all ATV owners, but the real purpose behind it is to benefit the fight against cancer.
Laci Sopeland, the granddaughter of Lorraine Cline who died four years ago of lung cancer, organized the benefit rides in 2008 to earn money, which is donated to help pay expenses to local people waging war against the dreaded disease.
Sopeland says a portion of the money will ultimately help fund a type of free wellness clinic where Gila County residents can receive health care and checkups.
She says the clinic is a huge goal of hers because her grandmother’s cancer was not diagnosed until very late in the disease’s progression and had she known about it earlier, chances for survival would have been much better.
“She died only three months after it was diagnosed,” said Sopeland.
Four Seasons Motorsports of Rye is among those stepping up to help make the poker ride a benefit to remember. Four Seasons has helped Sopeland and her assistants secure a state of the art side-by-side Polaris UTV to be used as a charity raffle prize at the event.
Raffle tickets are $100 and only 200 will be sold. The drawing will begin at 6 p.m., Friday, April 27 during a pre-race dinner and dance at the Butcher Hook in Tonto Basin.
For those not familiar with poker runs, they are organized events in which participants, usually using motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, horses or in this case ATV’s, must visit five to seven checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run. Winning is purely a matter of chance.
For more information, call (928) 978-1254 or e-mail: obarcranch @yahoo.com.
Also on the Rim Country’s charity calendar is the Justice McNeeley Foundation-hosted “Casino Day” to be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 29 at Sidewinders Saloon in Pine.
The entry fee is $15 per person with additional buy-ins or donations available. Games include black jack, roulette, craps and Texas Hold-em.
The benefit is dear to the heart of Katie Lynn Parks, the mother of the boy — Justice McNeeley — for whom the foundation is named.
While Parks has been active in the benefit for years, she frets that Payson townspeople don’t get involved or participate because they mistakenly believe the funds earned benefit Pine children only.
In truth, the foundation helps more children in Payson than in Pine and Strawberry.
Also, Parks says, “With the economy still down, we are helping more kids than ever.”
The foundation helps children in need with medical bills and other financial assistance.
Most around the Rim Country recognize the McNeeley Foundation’s annual fall poker ride, as its most popular benefit.
Each year it draws a bevy of entrants who compete for cash prizes then hang around the finish line at Rimside Grill to enjoy horseshoes, volleyball, live music and the awarding of raffle prizes.