For John Dryer and Laci Sopeland, helping host the Lorraine Cline Memorial Poker Ride is a labor of love.
Their devotion to the charity event is fueled by their fond memories of Lorraine Cline. Sopeland, is the granddaughter of Cline who died four years ago of lung cancer.
Dryer, a longtime resident of Tonto Basin and one of the town’s genuine characters, was a close friend of Cline, who was a member of a longtime Gila County ranching family.
Following Cline’s death, Sopeland and Dryer helped organized the benefit rides to earn money to be used to help local people waging war against the dreaded disease.
Sopeland says a portion of the money earned will eventually help fund a type of free wellness clinic where Gila County residents can receive health care and check-ups.
The clinic is a big-time goal for both Sopeland and Dryer because Cline’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.
The Fourth Annual Memorial Fund Poker Ride begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 28 at the O-Bar-C Ranch in Tonto Basin and continues along old Jeep and mining trails through some of the county’s most scenic high desert vistas.
Dryer says the route has been changed slightly from last year’s 42-mile jaunt and will be about 10 miles longer.
“The Forest Service has gone in an improved some of the roads,” Dryer said.
The route travels along FR 1411 past Juniper Mountain, the ZT Ranch, Buzzard Roost Camp and near Copper Mountain before finishing at the original starting line.
Dryer estimates the ride will take most of the day because riders will want to stop and sight see, eat a lunch they pack for themselves and possibly visit with other entrants.
At the start line, poker hands will be sold for $20 each.
In addition to the ride, there will be a benefit dinner and dance beginning at 6 p.m., Friday, April 27, the day prior to the ride, at the Butcher Hook in Tonto Basin.
Over the past months, Dryer, Sopeland and other volunteers have been hawking 200 raffle tickets for $100 each for the prize of a 2012 Polaris Ranger 800 XP valued at about $14,000.
During the dinner dance, the winning raffle ticket will be drawn.
While all 200 raffle tickets have been sold, the dinner dance remains a popular draw due to the fine food to be served and the presence of the highly popular Moonshine Mafia band that will provide entertainment and dance tunes.
Sopeland anticipates the eventual raffle winner will use the Ranger on the ride the next morning.
She is also singing the praises of Four Seasons Motorsports in Rye for their cooperation in securing the Ranger as a raffle prize.
For those who want to stay the night in Tonto Basin, Desert Lakes Resort co-owner Deb Roden can help out. She can be reached at (928) 970-0304.
For those unfamiliar with poker rides, they are an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats or horses, 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.
For more information, call (928) 978-1254 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.