On Saturday, 19 motorcycle enthusiasts spent five hours on the highway for a poker run to raise money for Real Men Real Leaders, a group that mentors boys in the fifth and sixth grades in the Garden City area.
Riders started at Golden Corral in Garden City, then went ot Dodge City Harley Davidson, the Meade travel plaza, Billy’s in Liberal, Station 53 in Sublette and finished at Time Out in Garden City.
“It was about a 200 mile ride,” said Toby Waltz, president of the local chapter of the Iron Order Motorcycle Club, who helped put on the fundraiser.
Waltz said that he first heard about Real Men Real Leaders from Jonas Cruz, the executive director of the organization, when they worked together for UPS in Garden City. The group sounded like a good cause and Waltz was excited to help.
A poker run is basically a long motorcycle ride with several stops. At each stop, riders are given a card and at the end of the run, they have a poker hand. Whoever has the best hand wins a prize. Saturday’s prize was $250.
On Saturday evening, Waltz said that he thought the event raised around $850 for United Way — with the money specifically designated for Real Men Real Leaders.
“We’re hoping to work together with them a little more,” said Waltz.
The Southwest Iron Chapter of the Iron Order MC does poker runs for other causes, donates to the Family Crisis Center and has a highway cleanup program.
Real Men Real Leaders has a free after-school program for boys attending Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center, St Mary School, and Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center.
Jonas Cruz, executive director of Real Men Real Leaders, said that the organization is glad to receive United Way funds.
Last year, the United Way allocation for RMRL was $5,000 and this year it has increased to $15,000. There are three employees, 80 mentors and it serves about 80 students, Cruz said.
Cruz said that the money will be used to cover various expenses, including transportation, food, snacks and projects.
“It helps out with going to different places, as far as entertainment, meals and snacks. Any kind of projects we do, the United Way funds really support us in all different directions,” Cruz said.
Real Men Real Leaders gives students lots of opportunities to get involved in the community, he said.
“We don’t just have fun events. We go bowling, go to the movies, but we also do a lot of community events all through the city. We try to do fundraisers … pick up trash on the side of the road. We’re getting ourselves out there, that’s for sure,” Cruz said, “It seems like every weekend, we’re doing something.”
Cruz said that it helps keep the boys out of trouble when there is so much to do every weekend.
RMRL has been receiving United Way funding for five years. Cruz has been a part of the organization for three years. The board was created in 2009 and the after-school program began in the 2012-2013 school year.
In the near future, Cruz said that the group will be assisting with a roadside cleanup and helping out with the YMCA racquetball tournament. But he is always open to new ideas, and takes suggestions.
“If they call me, I’m usually on the way,” he said. “Our kids are here to help the community. We’re trying to help them become leaders. We’re just trying to help Garden City become a stronger community.”