Annual poker run set for July 4-5

As the July 4 holiday approaches, Walnut Grove Campground south of Tiffin is gearing up for its 2014 Children’s Benefit and 11th annual Nicholas Beier Golf Cart Poker Run. The fundraiser is to begin at 9:30 a.m. July 4 and conclude at 9 p.m. July 5 with a drawing to give away a new golf cart.

The first children’s benefit took place on the July 4 weekend in 2003 with a golf cart poker run. The proceeds were given to the family of Nicholas Beier, a boy with a medical condition. The event was so successful a committee was formed to make it an annual effort with a different needy child or children chosen each year to receive the funds.

A member of the 2014 committee, Dea Owens, said the campground closes at the end of October, but the committee gets together every month at other locations during the winter. They stage a series of smaller projects throughout the year to generate funds for the main event. They have conducted garage sales, dances, raffles and card tournaments.

“Usually, we start with the euchre tournaments and the 50/50s right after this one’s over, for the next year,” Owens said. “We did a motorcycle run. That was a first. We had 14 motorcycles, and both kids were there to see them off,” Owens said.

The committee’s most important task is to select the children or child to receive the proceeds. Funds from this year’s event are to help with medical expenses for Crissy Bishop of Bloomville and Konnor Opp of Tiffin. Both are 6 years old and receive therapy and instruction at Seneca County Opportunity Center. Owens said an employee at the center, who camps at Walnut Grove, suggested the children to the committee.

Over the years, the benefit has expanded into a two-day event with a golf cart raffle, auction, children’s activities, live music and competitions. The popular golf cart poker run is named after the now-healthy Nicholas, whose family continues to participate. His mother, Michelle Beier, has been collecting pictures of past benefits to make decorations for the hall, including a picture of her son from the first benefit and his current photo.

“She has a T-shirt from every benefit,” Owens said, “so for each T-shirt, she’s going to make a little poster for that child for the whole 11 years that the benefit’s been going on.”

The activities July 4 include a breakfast, children’s games and bounce house, dunk tank and a blind folded golf cart obstacle course. A Vegas night with music by Loose Cannon Band is set for 7-11 p.m. The golf cart poker run is to depart at 9 a.m. July 5 at a cost of $20 per cart entry and $5 for poker. Owens said the families of the children receiving the proceeds also can participate in the run.

“We give them a cart, if they want to go,” Owens said.

Participants for the golf cart activities must be licensed drivers, and they must sign a waiver. Advanced registration for the poker run is to begin Friday at Walnut Grove. All registrations must be received by 8 a.m. July 5. A limited number of four-seat golf carts are available to rent for $125 per cart. Call Sharon at (419) 937-8574.

An auction is to follow the poker run July 5. From 7-11 p.m., there is to be a dance with Deputy Dawg DJ, a campground king and queen contest and the golf cart drawing at 9 p.m. The E-Z-GO gas golf cart is street legal with seating for six, a windshield, a horn, gauges for gas and oil, a street legal light kit, seat belts, off-road tires, aluminum rims and other features. Tickets are $10 each, and the winner need not be present to win. For tickets, stop at the Walnut Grove office or call (419) 355-6375.

Owens explained much of the benefit’s success stems from the generosity of the campground’s owner, Chris Rubeck, who makes available the Great Hall at Walnut Grove for the tournaments and benefit activities. The campers also support the cause.

“Chris is really, really good to us. We use the Great Hall for the euchre tournaments. Anything we do to raise money, she supports us 100 percent,” Owens said. “If you look at this small little campground, you wouldn’t think the people here would do what they do.”