McNeeley event

The first poker run raised money to buy Justice McNeeley a motorized wheelchair when he was in kindergarten. Now, he’s the guest of honor in the charity event that bears his name, which every year helps more families who need help coping with a child’s illness or disability.

The roots of the Justice McNeeley Foundation date to 2004 when a small town, grass roots movement to buy a specialized wheelchair, called a Go-Bot, for a 5-year-old Pine boy who suffered from muscular atrophy blossomed into a charity that has earned thousands of dollars to pay medical and other expense for children around the Rim Country.

The foundation’s motto today is “Help us Help a Child” and helping is what the organization does best.

Recently, the foundation donated $3,600 to buy a disabled boy a trainer to help him learn to walk; $5,000-plus to pay a surgical bill; $5,400 for dental braces; and more than $2,400 for specialized hearing aids.

“And that’s just some of the donations,” says Katie Parks, Justice’s mother and one of the founders of the foundation.

Much of the money the foundation donates to worthy causes is earned at the annual Charity Poker Run that has morphed into one of the highlights on the Rim Country’s sports, recreation and cultural scene.

The annual festivities include raffles, auctions, 50-50s, pool, horseshoe and corn hole tournaments, the quad poker run itself and plenty old-fashioned small town camaraderie.

This fall, the event is set for Saturday, Oct. 5 beginning at Bandits restaurant and tavern just north of SR87 in Strawberry and continuing to a block party and potluck at 1 p.m. off Fossil Creek Road. To find the location, attendees need only to follow the signs, Parks says.

The logistics of the 2019 event are completely different from past years and the changes are on purpose, says Parks.

“We had the runs at bars (Mi Familia, Rimside and Sidewinders) and people were spending their money there.

“Now (with the potluck and block party) they can spend their money on the auctions, prizes, raffle and tournaments.”

The property the post-run potluck/block party will be held is just off Fossil Creek Road and is owned by Parks’ friend who has given her permission to use it.

Also, the poker run route will be new and different, covering Stagecoach Road, the old wagon trail that reaches the top of the Rim where there are majestic views of Pine-Strawberry.

“It’s beautiful, the people will love it,” promises Parks.

The run begins at 9 a.m., the fee is $15 per person and there will be prizes for best and worst hands.

Because the new route includes some portions of state routes, all quads and off-road vehicles must be street legal.

At Bandits the morning of the run, breakfast burritos will be available for $5 each and at the afternoon potluck/block party raffle tickets are $10 each or six for $50. Texas Hold ’Em starts at 2 p.m. and there is a $15 buy in. Entry fee for the horseshoe and corn hole tournaments that begin at 2 p.m. is $15 per person.

Also, for the first time ever, the event will feature a pool tournament.

Most importantly, the foundation is one of the most worthwhile charities in Pine-Strawberry, so make plans to attend and throw your support behind the volunteers who host it.

Visit the website, justicemcneeley for more information.

Plant pro Friends’ guest

Home gardeners in Pine-Strawberry go to Glen McCombs of Plant Fair Nursery for advice, garden tips and proper product selections.

After all, he’s been the chief source of garden expertise about as long as anyone can remember, possibly since Custer was a corporal.

The good news for amateur gardeners is McCombs will be a special guest of Pine Library Friends at its monthly meeting at 1 p.m., Monday, Sept. 23 in the activity room located directly west of the cultural hall. McCombs will be speaking on winter gardening and “how to get your garden ready for the upcoming season.”

The community is welcome and refreshments will be served.

Mogollon monster?

Saturday was a busy, hectic day in Pine-Strawberry with two sporting events drawing throngs to the two mountain hamlets.

The annual Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race attracted cyclists from around the state eager to test their skills against a rugged cross country ride.

Also, the Mogollon Monster 100 was held. This is a challenging 100-mile trail race through the Mogollon Rim.

Because the race is so challenging, entrants must qualify by completing a 50-mile race or greater.

Organizers say they continue to hold the race on the Rim, near Pine, because they want to keep it small and “old school” so that ultramarathoners who enter can experience the sheer beauty of the area.

The race is named for the mythical monster that, some claim, has been sighted in the area for the past 100 years

Really, DOB?

At first, this scribe thought the affable Charlie Thompson, was jerking my chain when he told me he’s a member of the “Deaf, Old and Blind” shooting group at the Tonto Rim Sports Club.

But lo and behold, Charlie was “on target,” so to speak.

The group actually exists at the TRSC and meets every Tuesday beginning at 7 a.m. with breakfast at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino. Following it, they head for the Jim Jones Shooting Range for testing of firearms and general target shooting. Maybe a little “shooting bull” too, but Charlie didn’t say that.

All the members are what are described as “elders.”

Sounds as if they have a great time enjoying what they love to do. Go to for more information.

Thought for the week

The purpose of life, is a life of purpose.

Contact the reporter

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