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Holiday riding: Junkanoo hosts annual Christmas Poker Run and Holiday Toy Drive benefit Sunday, Dec. 16

Wrapping party Saturday, Dec. 22

December 11, 2012
Melissa Schneider - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

For the 16th year in a row, Junkanoo on the Beach's annual Christmas Poker Run and Holiday Toy Drive will be riding off Sunday, Dec. 16, with sign-up at 10 a.m. and the first bike out by 11 a.m.

Riders can expect a great selection of stops, including the Beached Whale, the Smiling Dog, Valerie's Lounge and the Mermaid, with other special "mystery stops" set up along the way.

"Each stop will be offering free food and everyone is welcome to join, whether you're on a Harley, a moped, a bicycle, a car, truck, scooter or anything else," said co-organizer Mike DeCarlo, along with island girl Lena Neroni. "Guard captains Blue Sliker, Brother Dave and Mike Sangster will lead the run, Thea and Paula Towell deal the cards and keep track of everyone's hands, and Lena and Rachael will be offering raffle tickets and commemorative T-shirts."

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Junkanoo, 3040 Estero Blvd., is proud to host its 16th annual Christmas Poker Run and Holiday Toy Drive Sunday, Dec. 16, with registration at 10 a.m. and first bike out at 11 a.m. Enjoy free food at each stop, as well as raffles and 50/50s. Above, some of the riding crew, including benefit coordinators Mike DeCarlo, Lena Neroni and Paula Towell (C21 TriPower), Morgan, Eddie Moran, Blue Sliker, Cheyenne. Musician JJ Armstrong of Wallow Sound lent his truck for the photo shoot. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.

The cost to ride is $20 a bike, $10 per rider, which gets each participant a poker hand. If you're not able to ride on a bike during the run no worries. Mike has reserved a super-comfortable air-conditioned bus, which is open to all who'd like to join. There is no additional charge to ride on the bus, just the cost of your poker hand(s).

There will be plenty of food at each stop, as well as raffles, prizes, 50/50 drawings and, of course, cards for your poker hand.

"We ride for a reason," Mike said. "It's all for local beach kids and the Lee Co. Sheriff's Dept. Youth Ranch. We always have a great turnout, and expect this year to be no different. Come by, donate some toys for local kids and have a great time for a great cause. Let's make this the biggest and best one ever."

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He's eager to point out that all of the classic Junkanoo girls will be at the run including Paula, Thea, Rachael, Niko, Kimberly, Kim and so many others.

"It's all for our local kids, so come out, donate a toy or two, have a great ride, get a poker hand, enjoy some free food and feel good knowing you're helping your local community.

Those attending are asked to donate a new, unwrapped toy to the fund-raiser, which will then be delivered Sunday, Dec. 23, to First Baptist Church on Connecticut Street by none other than Santa Clause, himself, along with Mrs.?Clause and several very special island elves, where island children and their families will have fun with the holiday bunch.

Fact Box

Junkanoo's 16th annual

Poker Run and Toy Drive


What: Multiple-stop poker run and toy drive, raising funds and toys for local island children and the Lee Co. Sheriff's Dept. Youth Ranch. Enjoy free food at all stops, plenty of raffles, prizes, 50/50s and much more.

Where: Starting at Junkanoo, 3040 Estero Blvd., and hitting the Beached Whale, Smiling Dog, Val's Lounge, the Mermaid and other mystery stops.

How much: $20 per rider, $10 per passenger. All forms of transportation welcome to join the

run, and an AC-ed bus is available for those

who don't have transportation.

TOY DROP INFO: Any of these locations are acting as toy drops through December, for delivery to First Baptist Church, Sunday, Dec. 23.

WRAPPING PARTY INFO: Saturday, Dec. 22, starting at 7 p.m., volunteers are needed to help wrap the many donated toys for the island children, whose families are in need.

More info: Call Mike DeCarlo, 590-5790.

Junkanoo (3040 Estero Blvd.) is acting as a toy drop for the local benefit now through the entire month of December, as well as all other participants of the run, including the Beached Whale, Valerie's Lounge, the Smiling Dog and the Mermaid. So, feel free to make your toy donations early by stopping by any of those locations anytime during operating hours.

Wrapping party

Be sure to stop by Junkanoo Saturday, Dec. 22, starting at 7 p.m. for the group's annual and huge wrapping party, where volunteers gather to wrap up all of the donated gifts for the island kids.

"A woman from Michigan called us this year, donating all of the wrapping supplies we need ?the tape, the wrapping paper so we just need volunteers to help us wrap all of these presents for the kids," Mike said.

For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer during the benefit or the wrapping party, call Mike DeCarlo at 590-5790.



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