Eagle Riders continue Wounded Warrior poker run


Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Brady Olson raises a flag in the bed of his truck Saturday in Havre prior to the annual Eagle Riders Poker Run held in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Motorcycle riders and organizations rode through north-central Montana Saturday in the Seventh Annual Spring Opener Poker Run to raise money and support for the Montana Wounded Warrior Project.

"We all worked as a team and it was well organized. We are hearing from other people that it was the best-organized ride they have been to, so this was really exciting this year," Havre Eagle Riders President Heather Sinclair said.

She added that it was a great day and was glad to see people from all around come together to honor veterans.

It did have a moment of tragedy itself, however. During the leg of the run on State Highway 223, one motorcyclist crashed into another and both motorcyclists were taken to Northern Montana Hospital. No information about their condition was available by printing deadline this morning, although one was reported Monday to be scheduled for surgery due to broken ribs and a punctured lung. It was the first crash in the seven years of the poker run.

At the start of the run, the riders were given an envelope with the start of their poker hand. At every stop, riders receive a punch in the envelope saying what card was received at that stop and would be used to build the rider's final hand. Once the riders returned, cash prizes were given out to the highest hand, the second highest hand and the lowest hand.

The entire ride covered roughly 170 miles before returning to Havre.

All proceeds go to the Montana Wounded Warriors Project, providing hunting and fishing trips for combat veterans with councilors and nurses available to provide aid. This year, the ride raised more than $7,027.50 for the Wounded Warriors, with more than 82 registered participants and about 68 motorcycles.

Sinclair said additional funds were donated that have not been counted yet.

Sinclair said that this year, a number of riders couldn't make it because of the weather conditions or personal engagements elsewhere such as graduations. She added that the Second Annual Bike Rodeo was canceled Sunday due to the weather conditions.

"It's because there are many veterans up on the Hi-Line, and Memorial Weekend, that's the time we need to stop and think of veterans who are still around and think of those who are no longer here around with us," she said. "Everybody has somebody who was in the service in their families."

Sinclair added that the Eagle Riders try to make it better every year. In this part of north-central Montana everyone is very far apart from each other, and one of the goals for the ride is to get people from all over to celebrate together.

"It's getting more popular," she said.

Steve Stanford of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, a Canadian Army veteran, and Scott Schmidt of Red Deer, Saskatchewan, Canada, both attended the ride for the first time.

Stanford said that he wanted to get involved in the ride after hearing about it because he wanted to support U.S. veterans. Regardless of where they serve, it is a brotherhood, he said.

U.S. Army veteran Brady Olson, who has refurbished and decked out his personal truck - complete with a flag pole in the bed - to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior project, said that he has been doing the run for a number of years. He added that the ride brings people together to honor veterans as well as provide living veterans with a place to converse and support each other. The cameraderie with like-minded people with like-minded experiences is a big part of the ride for him.

"It's a special day to remember those who I've served and worked with," he said. "I've lost a few friends overseas and this is my way of keeping it in my head."

See more about the Spring Opener Poker Run and the Havre Eagle Riders in Friday's Hi-Line Living Page.


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