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Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac to host second annual Paddling Poker Run

DOWAGIAC — The Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac is gearing up to host its second annual Paddling Poker Run.

The event will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 at Doe-Wah-Jack’s Canoe Rental, 52963 M-51 N., Dowagiac, and end at Russom Park, 28776 Yaw St., Dowagiac.

Sign-ups will take place from 11 a.m. to noon and launch between noon and 1 p.m. All the money raised at the event will go toward the funding of the organization’s Russom Park pavilion project. Russom Park has a sports complex featuring baseball, soccer and softball fields for park visitors. YPGD member and Doe-Wah-Jacks Canoe Rental Owner Neil Keller said that the Russom Park pavilion plan has been in the works for at least three years.

“We were looking at things we could do to help raise money to help fund the pavilion,” Keller said. “We had heard about poker floats, and we thought it could work well on the river. It’s a great way to bring the community together.”

A Dowagiac native, Keller has been renting canoes to patrons for 16 years. He joined the YPGD two years ago to get more involved with the community.

“We’re trying to make a spot where everyone can gather,” Keller said. “We want to give the community a common area that everyone can use.”

Poker run attendees will receive their playing cards at the launch, Middle Crossing Bridge, Yaw Street Bridge, when they dock their canoe and at Russom Park. The attendee with the best hand will receive a prize, and additional prizes will be handed out. Yard games and concessions will also be hosted at the park from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Ticket costs will increase by $5 the day of the event, so the organization encourages those interested in attending to purchase tickets in advance. The presale cost of renting a tandem canoe will be $60 and a single canoe will cost $40. Attendees can bring their own canoes for $20 and tandem canoes $40.

According to Keller, last year’s poker run raised $500. The organization has several fundraising events throughout the year, including its annual Daddy/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son events and its fireworks show.

Keller said the organization has raised more than $33,000 toward its $40,000 pavilion goal.

“Last year was a little slow due to eastern equine encephalitis,” Keller said. “But everyone who came out loved it. “We’re crossing our fingers that the weather and mosquitos work out for us.”

Readers seeking more information on the event are asked to call the YPGD organization at (269) 782-7410.

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