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Poker run benefits cancer patients | New

In its 16th year, the Nicholson Cancer Fund will sponsor a fundraiser on Saturday to help people with the disease and in financial difficulty.

Like last year, the event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be a poker race and is open to motorcyclists and people in other vehicles, said Connie Nicholson, one of the organizers.

Event day registration begins at 11 a.m.

In previous years, it was a bicycle race.

As always, the event will be in memory of Scott Nicholson, who organized the original event with his friend and fellow sawmill owner Neil Brown.

The bike race format was chosen because Scott and Neil were both motorcyclists.

Scott’s goal was to help people with cancer who needed help because of lost work and the costs associated with treatment, said Connie Nicholson, his wife.

However, Scott never got to experience the first bike race in 2007 as he lost his battle with cancer at age 46, just months before the event was scheduled.

Although Scott left, Neil, Connie and others continued the bike race, which was a huge success. At first, it cost $150 for each rider and passenger to participate, and the organization awarded a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to one lucky rider.

At its peak, the event drew 350 bikes and included dinner for up to 700 people at the Connellsville Township Fire Hall.

“To make it work, the firefighters pulled trucks out of the bays and set up tables there,” Connie recalls.

In recent years, the number of bikes has dwindled, although the event still attracted around 200 riders, she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic played a part in the decline and brought about changes, including a switch from a bike ride to a poker run.

Due to the impossibility of gathering in large numbers, dinner was canceled and the entrance fee was reduced.

This year, tickets are $20, although attendees can buy as many tickets as they want. Additionally, people can register on the day of the poker run.

Advance registration can be done by messaging Connie on the Nicholson Cancer Fund Inc. Facebook page.

The race will start at Ed Nicholson & Sons Lumber, 2451 Springfield Pike, Connellsville, where each entrant will receive a first card and score sheet.

Cards will be distributed at additional stops:

• Bootleggers Bar and Grille, 1303 Connellsville Road, Lemont Furnace.

• Roadhouse & Grille de Young, 7966 Kingwood Road, Confluence.

• Anchor Inn, 7780 National Pike, Addison.

The final stop and final card distribution will be from 4-6 p.m. at the Fairview Aid Society, 285 E. Fairview Ave., Connellsville.

Each year, the Nicholson Cancer Fund Board chooses different stops throughout the run, although it always begins at the timber company.

Connie said the poker run is not a race and participants can run the course at their own pace and along chosen routes, as long as they arrive at the start, stop and finish sites in the deadlines set.

The holder of the best five-card poker hand will receive $1,000, followed by the second best, $500 and the third, $100.

In the event of a tie in poker hands, winners will be chosen in blind ticket stub draws.

Connie encourages poker run participants to dine at poker-run restaurants.

In addition to the poke run, the event will feature a raffle as one ticket stub will be randomly drawn from all the others, with the winner receiving $1,000.

Participation in the poker run is not required to be eligible for the $1,000 ticket draw, Connie said, adding, “That way the whole community can get involved.”

In its first 15 years, the Nicholson Cancer Fund has helped approximately 1,450 families in Fayette, Westmoreland and Greene counties.

Many of the original board members are still involved, including Connie and Neil. In recent years, Connie and Scott’s sons, Shawn and Weston, have joined in the effort.

“The goal is always to help anyone in financial difficulty because of their cancer,” Connie said. “That’s what Scott wanted and that’s what we’re trying to do to keep his wishes alive.

“It takes a long time, but I volunteered and will do it for as long as I can. I have no complaints.

The board is leading the effort, but isn’t the only one organizing the event. “We have amazing volunteers who have been with us since the beginning,” said Connie. “Dedicated and reliable, we couldn’t do this without them.”

Increasing cost

Since the first bike race, costs have increased dramatically, and the annual fundraiser alone does not generate enough money to serve those in need, as it always has.

Fortunately, says Connie, help came from other sources.

“A lot of people, communities and churches are fundraising for us,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people are giving back because of the people we’ve helped.

“We have changed over time.”

For more information on how to apply for help or contribute to the fund, go to