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Riding for a Reason - County-wide poker run Sunday raising funds for local twin toddlers fighting a rare form of cancer

June 25, 2014
Melissa Schneider - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Raising funds for not one but two local twin toddler sisters battling cancer, a poker run for Samantha and Ashley will be held Sunday, June 29, riding all over Lee County for a cause.

It all started soon before Christmas last year, when one of the three-year-old twin girls, Ashley's, leg swelled up. Going to the hospital, the doctors found a large mass. A couple weeks later, they found that her twin, Samantha, had an even larger mass. After numerous and extensive blood work, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and other tests, doctors found out that both girls have a rare form of leukemia, now both going through chemotherapy.

Ashley's and Samantha's parents say that their two young girls are true fighters, and it's horrible watching them go through the therapy, but one thing that's come out from this is seeing that there are still good people left in this world; good people showing that they are not alone in the fight. After a wealth of support and persistence from the community, this very special poker run was scheduled to raise funds for these two little Cape Coral angels.

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The 36-mile benefit poker run Sunday is all to help raise funds for twin three-year-old girls Ashley and Samantha Housel, who are simultaneously fighting a rare form of leukemia. The run will hit numerous local hot spots throughout town, with a group of beach runners meeting at Valerie’s Lounge at 9:30 a.m. Get ready to ride for a cause! Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.

Sign-up for the benefit poker run will start at 10 a.m., Sunday, at Ralph's Place in the Big John's Plaza, off of Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral, that Sunday, but a big group of Fort Myers Beach riders and charter bus will congregate before then at Valerie's Lounge, 17264 San Carlos Blvd., near Fort Myers Beach, in the Indian Creek Shopping Center.

For those on the beach looking to get to Val's before the runners depart for the first poker run gathering at Ralph's, beach coordinator Mike DeCarlo organized a cab service leaving Junkanoo at 9:30 that morning, taking island riders to the meeting spot in the Indian Creek Plaza.

Local riders and the air-conditioned charter bus (complete with plenty of Jell-o) will then depart Val's Lounge around 9:40 that morning to meet everyone else at Ralph's Place, who will then offer a fantastic pre-run breakfast for all those participating in the benefit run.

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"Nicole and Bobby of Ralph's Place looked to our beach crew for help and with this being such a great cause you know we're all on board. We always ride for a reason," Mike said. "We're asking all of our islanders to come together and ride for this very good benefit, because that's what we do, we ride for a cause. The amount of things you get for the cost to ride is unbelievable breakfast, lunch, live music all day and knowing you're helping these two sweet little angels, it should be a no-brainer to join us Sunday morning."

After signing up and enjoying breakfast at Ralph's Place (included in the cost of participating), poker-runners will hit the road at 11 a.m. bikers, trucks, cars, mopeds and the charter bus to its first stop, Woody's at Surfside (Cape Coral), followed by Miceli's (Matlacha), then to Crossroads (Cape Coral, owned by Vickie, who many remember from the Lani Kai), and then to Anthony's on the Blvd. (Cape Coral), then returning to Ralph's Place for a celebratory BBQ lunch and after-run party, complete with a smoker and array of barbecued goodness, 50/50s, raffles, prizes, giveaways, a dunk tank, live music from a few great local groups and a very special money-making machine.

Mike explains. "We'll even have a money machine, from Sandy at Good Times Amusement, which will be loaded with $2,500 in cash," he said. "And so many of our great local beach businesses donated to the raffles and silent auctions at the after-run party hotel stays, gift certificates, jetski rides. I'm always impressed with our island businesses and volunteers, and how much they're always willing to help such a great cause." And look forward to seeing all of the very special volunteers during the run: Paula and Thea helping riders with their poker hands; Lena running around with a bucket of raffle tickets, bike-run leaders Tico, Brother Dave, Mike and Grimes, and many more.

Each and every stop will be offering poker-runners something special that day, whether it's food and drinks, appetizers, live music or special gifts, raffles and prizes, and Mike is eager to boast that this is a nice 36-mile ride, so you can really get some wind in your hair.

Once the poker run and after-party commence, the charter bus will return to Valerie's Lounge, where transportation will be offered, heading back onto the island.

The cost to participate is $20 for any bike, car or truck, $10 per additional rider, and $30 to ride in the comfortable charter bus all day long. To sign up, talk to your Val's Lounge bartender or call Nicole, 239-549-2040 or Mike, 239-590-5790.

"I want to send a big thanks to Nicole and Bobby of Ralph's Place for putting this great fundraiser together," Mike said. "Our beach people are happy to help this cause."

Thursday night BINGO for the girls

Adding to the wonderful array of ways to help these twin three-year-olds during their battle with cancer, Valerie's Lounge and the Tabarrini Foundation are proud to announce that all proceeds raised during their BINGO night Thursday, June 26, from 6 to 9 p.m. will be donated to Ashley's and Samantha's health fund.

If you'd like to make a donation toward the girls' fund but can't make it to either event, a check can be made out to "Ralph's Place Charities: ID# 47-1054034)," 1305 Cape Coral Parkway E, Cape Coral, FL 33904.



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