RUSKIN – Whether it’s a sleek Harley Sportster or a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle, residents are invited to rev up their preferred mode of transportation and participate in the inaugural Cruisin’ for Critters Poker Run Saturday, April 5.
The poker run is a first-time fundraiser for the nonprofit Critter Adoption and Rescue Effort no-kill animal shelter at 1528 27th St. SE, Ruskin.
“Poker runs have become very popular,” said Sharon Becker, president of the board of directors of CARE. “They’re a fun way to support a charity.”
Not only does the poker run give bikers and car fanciers a chance to socialize, it gives participating businesses an opportunity to attract new customers.
Cruisin’ for Critters Poker Run participants will register from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at The Dog House, 204 Shell Point Road W., Ruskin, where they’ll receive breakfast, a T-shirt, score card and draw the first card for their poker hands. The registration fee for the 100-mile poker run is $25 per vehicle.
Starting at 11:30, participants will travel to three businesses to collect more playing cards.
“At each stop, they can spend time socializing and getting a drink or bite to eat before heading on,” said Becker.
Stops include Peggy’s Corral, 4511 U.S. 41, Palmetto; Woody’s River Roo, 6717 18th St., Ellenton; and Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse, 106 State Road 60 E., Plant City.
Riders will then head to the final stop, The Alley at Southshore, 10221 Big Bend Road, Riverview. At 4 p.m. the winning hands will be determined and a celebration will take place.
“The Alley is donating a meal and CARE is providing drinks and desserts for the participants,” said Becker. “There will also be vendors and a disc jockey at the celebration.”
The first-place winner will receive four tickets to SeaWorld. The second-place winner will be awarded two tickets to Busch Gardens. There will also be other prizes, a raffle and 50/50 drawing.
Based on pre-registrations, Becker said she expects more than 75 participants at what she hopes will become an annual fundraiser.
“We depend entirely on memberships, donations, fundraisers and grants to operate the shelter,” said Becker. “So fundraisers such as this are very important to our mission.”
It’s a mission that Becker became aware of five years ago when her daughter, Karlye, a graduate of Riverview High School, began volunteering at CARE to earn community service hours and gain experience to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
“She was only 14 when she started volunteering so she had to be accompanied by a parent,” said Becker.
However, Sharon Becker continued volunteering at the shelter after her daughter graduated from high school and headed to the University of Florida.
“I just fell in love with CARE, the animals and the volunteers,” she said. “It’s a small shelter and we’re all very close. It’s kind of like a family.”
In fact, CARE has become a family affair for the Beckers. Karlye Becker continues to volunteer at the shelter on weekends and in the summer as does Sharon Becker’s husband, Karl, and her other daughter, Karri.
“Love is the only free thing we can give the animals so we try to give as much as we can,” said Becker, noting that her family has adopted three dogs from CARE – a pair of Labrador retriever/pointer mixes and a blind cocker spaniel that was discarded in a bag on the side of the road at the age of 3 weeks.
“I was a little leery at first about volunteering because of all the bad things people do to animals,” said Becker. “But the first week I volunteered, someone dumped a dog over the shelter’s fence. He was in pretty bad shape. But, after seven months of love and training, Gordon became an amazing family pet.”
Becker said seeing abused animals transform into loving pets is what prompted her to continue volunteering long after her daughter earned her community service hours.
“Over time, I came to learn that, while their stories can be heartbreaking, there’s always a home for every animal.”
For more information on the poker run, call the shelter at (813) 645-2273 or visit www.careshelter.org.
D’Ann Lawrence White is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]