The annual Justice McNeeley Foundation Quad Poker Runs have been, since their founding 10 years ago, among the most celebratory gatherings held in Pine and Strawberry.
The festivities include the quad poker run, horseshoe tournament, entertainment, raffles, auctions, giveaways, 50/50 drawings, Texas Hold ’em tournaments and food specials.
As much as the benefit is about fun and small-town camaraderie, it also serves a valuable purpose — all money earned benefits the foundation and its mission to pay the medical expenses of boys and girls in need.
One year, 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.
“Dental, hearing, glasses, orthotics — anything they need, we try to provide,” said foundation member Chuck Collins. “We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all our employees are non-paid volunteers.”
Knowing the event benefits a very worthwhile cause, Rim Country residents will want to be on hand when the 2014 run tips off Saturday, Sept. 20 at Sidewinders Tavern and Grill on Beeline in Pine. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the ride starts one hour later. Doors open at 8 a.m.
In past years, more than 80 riders have turned out aboard a variety of ATVs, motorcycles, OHVs and side-by-sides, from customized high-dollar 800cc rigs loaded with accessories to older models suitable only for a single rider.
All the rigs, however, have one thing in common — they are outfitted with coolers and ice chests filled with plenty of refreshing beverages for the journey.
The course takes riders to Twin Buttes before returning to the starting line. Along the course, participants make five stops to pick up playing cards.
At the conclusion of the event, the entrants win prizes for the two best poker hands. Holders of the worst hands will also win prizes.
Usually, it takes an impressive hand of cards to win — Cindy Didomenico won four years ago with a full house.
A single-elimination horseshoe tournament should also draw a crowd, with winners receiving prizes. The tournament begins at 1 p.m. The entry fee for horseshoes is $10 and the fee for the run is $15 which includes a drink token donated by Sidewinders.
The Texas Hold ’em tournament begins at 1 p.m. inside Sidewinders. Buy-in is $15 and prizes will be given for first and second place.
Breakfast burritos sell for $5 and all proceeds will benefit the charity.
Roots in 2004
In the summer of 2004, friends of Justice McNeeley, then a 5-year-old Pine Strawberry School kindergartner, banded together to purchase him a specialized wheelchair called a Go-Bot.
After much brainstorming, the friends settled on a benefit poker run and other accompanying festivities to earn the money for the Go-Bot.
The boy suffers from spinal muscular atrophy — a form of muscular dystrophy — and the Go-Bot was designed to greatly improve Justice’s mobility over the standard wheelchair he then had.
Only an hour after the poker run wrapped up, the day culminated with one of the most emotional moments ever witnessed in the tiny, mountain town. Justice’s father, Trent, lifted his son onto the Go-Bot and the boy took his first-ever ride on a device that brought him newfound freedom.
“You people better watch out, here I come,” Justice said as he spun around the parking lot.
Since that inaugural benefit, Justice has attended most every event, greeting visitors while frolicking in the multitude of activities.
The overwhelming success of the first benefit prompted organizers, including Justice’s mother Katie Parks, to create the foundation which has since grown in leaps and bounds.
For details, call Katie Parks at (928) 238-0155 or Cathy Smith at (480) 243-1781.
Library Friends meet Monday
Pine Library Friends will meet at 10 a.m., Monday, July 28 in the library activity room located just behind the cultural hall in Pine.
Jay Kemp, author and artist and longtime resident of Payson will be the guest speaker. He is expected to bring his books and some of his artwork.
Kemp’s more recent works include four books, “My Hopscotch Life,” “Critters From the Third Plane,” “Over the ‘Back Fence’: True Stories and Yarn Spinning.”
The meeting is open to the public.
Library Friends play a crucial role in helping fund the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library. During the organization’s three-day 4th of July book sale it raised $1,444, which drew a big “Thank You, Friends” from library manager Becky Waer.
More from the library
The Pine library board has been working for months planning an inaugural “Wine Around the Library” benefit to be held 3 p.m. to sunset Saturday, Oct. 11.
The board’s planning includes attracting sponsors who would like to help host the fun and exciting event.
Also, the board is asking for donations of white or red wines that can be dropped off at the library. Tickets for the benefit will go on sale soon.
For more information call Waer at (928) 476-3678.
Sue Montgomery of the Pine First Baptist Church is encouraging parents and their children to participate in the AWANA Kick-off Carnival to be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 11 at the church located at 4039 N. Highway 87 in Pine.
The event is for all curricula levels from Sparks to Varsity.
“Bring your parents and friends,” Montgomery said. “Parents can register as kids play games, enjoy hot dogs, chips and cotton candy.”
Regular AWANA club meetings will begin Monday, Aug. 18.
AWANA, which is derived from the first letters of Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, taken from 2 Timothy 2:15, is an international evangelical nonprofit organization founded in 1950.
Its mission is to help “churches and parents work together to develop spiritually strong children and youth who faithfully follow Jesus Christ.”
Committee meets tomorrow
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee will hold its next public meeting at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, July 26, in the Pine Cultural Hall.
“We will go over our finances, our fundraisers, the progress on the work being done on the trails, the upcoming September mountain bike race, and the progress of the brush pickup,” said committee chairman Mel Palmer. Call (928) 970-0713 for more information.
About the race
The race is Saturday, Sept. 13, with check-in and other events starting at noon, Friday, Sept. 12 and wrap up fun Sunday, Sept. 14. Early registration ended July 15, but regular registration continues through race day. Check the website, fireontherim.com for details.
Don’t forget to mark Aug. 9 on the calendar as the day to attend the Friends of Strawberry Patchers’ Sixth Annual A Beautiful Quilt Auction.
The event, which will be held in the community center, opens at 11 a.m. for both registration and preview. The auction starts at 1 p.m.
Admission is free, but those who donate a can or package of non-perishable food for the local food bank will be entered into a drawing for a quilt.
For more information and forms, call Kris Lovetro at (602) 390-2046.
Board members needed
Cody Barlow, superintendent/principal for Pine Strawberry School, is in need of a few good men and women to run for three upcoming vacant seats on the school board. Two seats are for four-year terms, the other is for two years.
Barlow is encouraging those concerned with the future of children and public education to get involved. Those interested should pick up election packets at the school or by calling Gila County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Linda O’Dell at (928) 472 5371.