Hosting the Lorraine Cline Memorial Poker Ride is a labor of love for Laci Sopeland and the bevy of dedicated volunteers who spend countless hours making sure the ride is a first class event.
Their devotion to the charity event is fueled by fond memories of Lorraine Cline, Sopeland’s grandmother, who died Aug. 18, 2008 of lung cancer.
Following Cline’s death, Sopeland, family members and volunteers banded together to organize the benefit rides to earn money to be used to help county residents waging war against the dreaded disease.
Among those who helped jump start the memorial was Lorraine’s daughter, Teri, who understands well the fund’s purpose, “To help other families that struggle with the effects of cancer. My mom would be proud of how big this cancer fund-raiser has gotten, she has always loved to help people, and this way, she still is.”
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 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.
Sadly, years later Sopeland also lost her grandfather to cancer.
Plans are in the works to host a memorial in his name sometime next fall.
The Fifth Annual Memorial Fund Poker Ride begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 27 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.
John Dryer, a long-time friend of the Cline family, says the route has changed slightly from last year due to a fire that swept through the area in September.
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.
“The trip will be from 40 to 50 miles,” said Dryer.
He estimates the ride will take most of the day because riders will want to stop and sightsee, 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 and prize money will be doled out for first, second and third place.
For the 2012 ride, 290 poker hands were sold and the top prize of $400 was pocketed by Lon Cline for his hand of five sevens.
In addition to the ride, there will be an old-fashioned benefit dinner and dance beginning at 6 p.m., Friday, April 26, the day prior to the ride, at the Butcher Hook in Tonto Basin.
The gathering is sure to include a lip smacking meal, entertainment and plenty of small town camaraderie.
Over the next few months, Sopeland and other volunteers have as a goal to sell 250 raffle tickets at $100 each for the prize of a 2013 Polaris Ranger Crew 800 EPS Camo valued at about $16,100.
Tickets are now available at Anderson Dental, the Butcher Hook and from any member of the Cline Memorial Fund planning committee.
The winner of the Polaris is responsible for tax, licenses and other start up fees.
Last year, the raffle prize — a 2012 Polaris Ranger 800 XO side-by-side — was won by Jeannie and Chris Cline.
During the upcoming dinner dance, at about 9 p.m., the winning raffle ticket will be drawn. Sopeland emphasizes the drawing will be a reverse raffle which most consider to be more fun and entertaining because the final ticket holders have the choice of having another ticket drawn and possibly being eliminated or splitting the grand prize with the other finalists.
The winners of the ATVs at past events have traditionally ridden them the following day in the poker run.
In addition to the raffle and silent auction highlighting the dinner dance,the highly popular Clay Sopeland and the Moonshine Mafia band will light up the evening with its alternative, country and Americana music.
In staging the benefit, Laci Sopeland is quick to praise 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 manager Deb Roden can help out. She can be reached at (928) 970-0304.
For those unfamiliar with poker rides, they are organized events 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.