To raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life initiative, a group of local bicyclists played a game of poker as they rode on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway.
David Orr said he organized the Get-A-Grip Bicycle Poker Run and that the event is in its second year.
“We’ve doubled what [was] done last year,” Orr said of the increased participation and money raised.
Despite a light drizzle and the threat of rain, event participants met at George R. Stuart Elementary School to take part in a bicycle swap meet and show. Anyone who wanted to take part in the poker run bought a ticket for $5 before heading to the starting line at the Willow Street end of the 4-mile-long Greenway. Along the way, cyclists encountered six checkpoints where they would each receive one playing card before turning back to ride the entire length of the Greenway a second time. At the end of the ride, cyclists could use the best five out of six cards as their hand to take part in a poker game. The winner of the game at the end of the event took home a cash prize.
Orr said all the proceeds from the swap meet and bicycle poker run entries went to the Relay for Life initiative. He said he hoped the event would accomplish two goals at once — to raise money and to get local families interested in cycling because it is something people of a wide range of ages can do together. He added that the event itself was not unheard of in other circles.
“It’s a good way to spread the hobby,” Orr said. “Motorcycles have been doing it for years.”
It also gave volunteers who chose not to bike a chance to support the cause. Suza Hawkins, who works for Excel Inc. in Cleveland, said she was representing her company by keeping a tally of the cyclists and handing out playing cards.
Each checkpoint was run by volunteers from a different event sponsor. Hawkins said her company took this as an opportunity to continue the charitable fundraising it does throughout the year and speculated that the volunteers running the other checkpoints were doing the same.
She said the event itself had drawn people’s attention because it was unique and hoped it helped raise awareness of the cause the event was raising money for as well.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of a bike poker run,” said Bertha Johnston, one of Hawkins’ co-workers.
By the time 1 p.m. — when the poker run was supposed to end — had rolled around, the volunteers at the Willow Street checkpoint had seen around 16 bicyclists. Johnston said she hoped next year will receive a larger crowd and that the plight of those dealing with cancer would stay on people’s minds long after the last poker hand was played.
“Anything we do will hopefully benefit someone to find a cure someday,” Johnston said.