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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Hogs for Hospice poker ride exceeds expectations

by Sylene Argent

photos submitted

Around 500 motorcyclists participated in the first Hogs for Hospice unregistered Poker Ride as a means to support the local organization that oversees end of life care, in addition to local businesses.

  “It went great. This was our first time doing this,” Joe Oswald, Concert & Events Coordinator for Hogs for Hospice, said. He noted the annual event typically offers three-days of activities in Leamington, including concerts with big-name musicians, a registered motorcycle ride, and opening ceremony that pays tribute to veterans.

  To host something during the pandemic, Oswald said organizers had to come up with an event that could follow COVID-19 guidelines, such as ensuring participants were able to socially distance themselves from one another. Poker runs fit the criteria.

  Hogs for Hospice organizers were fairly unfamiliar with hosting a poker run, so they did a lot of research and connected with others who have hosted similar events in the past to prepare for Saturday’s event.

  Participants had five stops in the Poker Run, which were situated at restaurants and patios throughout Essex County. “Part of our goal was supporting the restaurant community that has gone through such a struggle,” Oswald said, adding Hogs for Hospice is about supporting the organization that provides end of life care, but it is also community-driven and focused, as well.

  As an unregistered event, participants were able to start and finish wherever they wanted. Each location had a Hogs for Hospice booth, where the participants received a gift. Participants had to stop at all five locations to build their poker hand.

  At the end of the event, participants submitted their collected poker hand for a chance to win the grand cash prize of $5,000, which Chris Lucas won with his full house. Second place took home $1,000 and third place earned a 2022 Hogs for Hospice concert VIP experience pass.

  The event was free to participate. Organizers went through a three-and-half hour audit of the submissions to ensure information was accurate.

  “We were thrilled with our turnout and overall result,” Oswald said. “We didn’t know what to expect, because this is a very popular weekend for riders.” He added that Hogs for Hospice organizers knew that when the decision to postpone the regular event to next year was made, motorcyclists were making other plans.

  He was pleased to learn some of the riders were from various parts of Southwestern Ontario. “We had people from all over come in.”  

  Sponsors helped to secure the locations, provide the gifts to the participants, and the cash prizes to the winners.

  The Hogs for Hospice team had over 40 volunteers lend a hand to ensure the event was a success, Oswald said, expressing sincere gratitude for the support of the sponsors, participants, volunteers, and supporters.

  Many of the participants during the event provided donations, which have not been tallied as of yet, but Oswald said it will be substantial.

  Hogs for Hospice is also currently hosting a 50/50 raffle. With participants buying tickets in person during the event, Oswald said the draw was around $80,000 for the winner on the weekend and was expected to grow. The winning ticket was scheduled to be drawn on Wednesday, August 4.    

  “We can’t thank the public enough for supporting us and believing in us. In a time that we know that we know has been a struggle for a lot of families,” Oswald said.  

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