Laci Sopeland hopes no one ever has to go through what her family has suffered because of cancer, but if they do, she’s there to help.
“Cancer is a horrible thing, the treatment is so hard,” she said. “A lot of people with cancer won’t ask for help, I’ll get calls from friends or family or even the radiology department (on their behalf).”
In 2008 Laci started the Lorraine Cline Memorial Poker Run in Tonto Basin to raise money for the incidental costs that come up because of cancer treatment. This year, the ride will take place on April 25 and 26.
In the same year she started the Poker Run, Sopeland’s grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer and died within three months.
Lorraine’s death hit Sopeland hard. She said she was very close to her grandmother, so close she quit her job and moved with her family back to Tonto Basin to take care of her grandmother, but it was painful.
“You’re so used to seeing someone with their face full and then they look like a skeleton,” she said of the quick decline in her grandmother’s health.
Sopeland chose to have an event outside that uses 4-wheel drive vehicles to keep the spirit of her grandmother alive.
“The thought behind the Poker Ride …[was that] … she loved to go out on her ATV and check the salt (licks) and gates — she just loved getting out on the land. She was one heck of a cowgirl,” said Sopeland.
The money Sopeland and her family raise, (her mother Teri, daughter of Lorraine, helps to organize the ride), about $30,000, goes to pay for gas to get to chemotherapy treatment, insurance co-payments, even groceries and other daily needs.
“One of the first families we helped had a little girl with Wilm’s cancer (a childhood cancer that affects the kidneys),” said Sopeland. “Her parents were paying a lot of money for day care for her brothers …We helped pay for the day care to offer them some sort of quality of life as their sister went through treatment.”
Last year, the event drew more than 500 riders onto a rough 40-mile-plus Jeep road through the mountains around Tonto Basin to collect seven playing cards at $20 a hand.
“There are seven stops and it is best out of five cards,” said Sopeland. “In other words you get seven cards and you get to choose out of those seven which five cards you want to count as your best hand.”
Sopeland has turned the event into a weekend long party with a dinner and dance on Friday night at the local hangout, The Butcher Hook. At 9 p.m. Sopeland said a Ranger utility vehicle will be auctioned off. Most of the $100 limited numbers of raffle tickets for the ATV have already been sold.
Last year, local Tonto Basin residents Gail and Ron Starke won the 2013 Polaris Ranger Crew 800 WPS Camo.
For more information or to sign up please visit the event’s website at: http://www.lorraineclinememorial .com/default.html.
Sopeland said the website is still under construction so people may call her at (928) 978-1254 — or they may contact any of her teammates, Clay Sopeland (Laci’s husband), Lani and JR Keeney, Teri Cline, Norma Cline, John and Carol Dryer, Janna and John Cline, or Dan and Jeanine Cheek.
Save the dates on the calendar April 25 and 26.
Poker hands may be purchased at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 26. Riders may sign up the day of the event.
New this year, Sopeland said she has split up the ride into two routes so riders may choose the more difficult route or the easier and more people can participate.