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Poker run to benefit local veterans

By Staff | Apr 13, 2010

A poker run set for Saturday will help one Cape Coral organization provide food and clothing, as well as other services, to veterans and their families.
The Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation Poker Run kicks off at the Harley-Davidson/Buell of Fort Myers, located at 2160 Colonial Blvd., in Fort Myers, and ends at the foundation’s headquarters, at 3100 Del Prado Blvd., S., in Cape Coral. Participants can register from 9-10 a.m. at the Harley-Davidson store.
Mark Saunders, special projects coordinator for the foundation, said the event involves stops at five venues in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. The cost to participate is $10 per person and $5 per passenger. He added that those without a motorcycle are welcome to take part in the event with a vehicle.
“The money goes toward the foundation in order to feed, clothe — whatever a veteran’s needs are — to assist in school,” Saunders said. “It is utilized here at our location to help veterans.”
According to founder and president Ralph Santillo, Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation is a free outreach program for veterans. It provides breakfast and lunch daily and food for veterans and their families to take home, offers clothing from its thrift store, helps veterans secure jobs and complete school, assists with GI bills and benefits and offers counseling.
“Personally, I’d like to see us get at least $3,000, if possible,” Saunders said. “But we’re hoping to get whatever we can to help sustain our efforts.”
The five stops on the poker run include:
— Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, located at 13650 Fiddlesticks Blvd., Fort Myers, and manned by the Special Forces Association
— Cape Dog Bakery Plus Cat House & Spa, located at 1207 E. Cape Coral Parkway, and manned by the Barb-Base Submariners
— Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, located at 3015 S.W. Pine Island Road, Cape Coral, and manned by the Vietnam Brotherhood “G” Company
— Hoosier Charlie’s, located at 103 Del Prado Blvd., N., Cape Coral, and manned by the Korean War Veterans
— Iwo Jima Memorial at Eco Park, located at the east end of Southeast 23rd Terrace, Cape Coral, and manned by the Marine Corps League and Lisa Cohen with the For The Love Of Our Soldiers project
“If they don’t want to participate in the run, we hope they show up to support it,” Saunders said. “They’re welcome to come here for food, fun and fellowship.”
Organizers are planning activities at the end of the run. There will be a 50/50 raffle with a cash prize and a silent auction. Some of the items up for auction include prints donated by a local artist, pictures of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and an Austin electric guitar. A deejay will feature live music.
Saunders is still seeking vendors affiliated with any military organization or motorcycle organization. Interested vendors can contact him at 541-8704.
The foundation’s on-site museum will be open for visitors to peruse for free. According to Saunders, 90 percent of the items on display were donated by local veterans. Military artifacts can be donated or loaned to the museum.
Saunders reported that Lee County has more than 70,000 veterans.
“We have veterans from all eras that are coming in to our organization and asking for help in one form or another,” he said. “So that’s what our goal is, to provide for them.”
The foundation will also accept donations at the event for its thrift store.
“We will take donations from anyone who just wishes to stop here and doesn’t want to participate in the ride,” Saunders said.