Riders from Elks Lodge No. 2379 make their way to the final stop of the Poker Run at Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country on Saturday. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Elk Lodge rides for brain injured children

More than 100 participants rode across Santa Clarita on Saturday for the Elks Lodge’s second annual poker run to benefit children with brain injuries.

“It’s our favorite ride,” said Anthony Garcia, president of the Elks Riders. “It’s been a real team effort, and without the rest of my brothers and sisters, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

The run began at Elks Lodge No. 2379 in Canyon Country, where participants received their first poker card and a map to the first of four stops. At each checkpoint, they got another playing card, and by the end of the run, they had a full poker hand.

It concluded at Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country with festivities including the rider with the best hand being crowned the winner as well as live music by LA Kraze, a silent auction and 50/50 raffle.

“It’s great to see riders from different clubs and the community trying to support us,” Garcia said.

Across the country, Elks Lodge riders were riding for the same cause, while in Santa Clarita the focus was on Marissa, a little girl who was born with extensive brain damage and has been facing various challenges because of it.

“We’re just trying to do a wonderful thing for a little girl who needs help,” said Deana Dannull Princiotta, vice president of the Elks Riders.

Mark “Guns” Rubio, Maurice Campbell and Erik Lindgreen, left to right, are VFW No. 2323 riders who participated in the Poker Run on Saturday. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Marissa has fought various illnesses and her adoptive mother, Sarah, says she was semi-comatose for three weeks just this past year. Now, she’s in renal failure with kidney function down to 4 percent, according to Princiotta.

“Some days are better than others, some days are impossible to get through,” Sarah said, “then there are those days she smiles and laughs and it reminds all of us how precious life is.”

Sarah works as an operator at TNJ Towing in Santa Clarita, and all the proceeds from the run will go toward helping her take care of Marissa.

“It’s a great community,” said Mark “Guns” Rubio, part of VFW Riders No. 2323, who participated in the run. “The most important thing for a lot of riders is support, the causes are good and the events are fun — that’s why we do this.”

Although most were riding Harleys or driving cars, Mike and Jamie Lewis and Gene and Maureen Styles rode street bikes for the run. They aren’t part of the Elks Lodge, but decided to join the fun anyway.

“It’s for such a great cause,” Mike said, and Jamie agreed. “(Deana) posted about it, so I asked if street bikes can go and told them about it.”

From left to right, Jamie Lewis, Mike Lewis, Maureen Styles and Gene Styles relax after the Poker Run at Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country on Saturday. They were the only four who rode street bikes during the run. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Editor’s note: Last names of Sarah and Marissa were omitted at the request of the family.

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