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Second annual Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac Paddling Poker Run a success

DOWAGIAC — Kayaks snaked their way down the winding Dowagiac River Sunday afternoon for the Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac’s second annual Paddling Poker Run.

The event, which started at noon and ended at 5:30 p.m., began at Doe-Wah-Jack’s Canoe Rental, 52963 M-51 N., Dowagiac, and ended at Russom Park, 28776 Yaw St., Dowagiac.

Initially scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, the event was rescheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13 due to inclement weather.

According to YPGD member and Doe-Wah-Jacks Canoe Rental Owner Neil Keller, that decision worked out for the best.

“I’d rather have a good day and have people show up, especially for a cause like this,” Keller said. “The more money for our cause, the better. Everyone in our group agreed that today would be better, and it was.”

Attendees received their playing cards at the launch, Middle Crossing Bridge, Yaw Street Bridge, when they docked their canoe and when they checked in at Russom Park. The attendee with the best hand received a handmade trophy, and additional prizes were handed out.

“It’s a really nice time,” Keller said. “It typically takes two hours to get down from here to M-62. It’s pretty awesome.”

Keller said that 25 people participated in this year’s event.

“Everyone kinda waits to see how the weather is gonna be,” Keller said. “We only had about 10 people last year, so each year, it grows a little more. If you like nature at all, it’s an awesome trip. It’s like a nature trail on the water, you can’t beat it. Everybody seemed to get down [the river] with no trouble at all. It was fun. ”

The event raised roughly $600, which will be put 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. Keller said that the Russom Park pavilion plan has been in the works for at least three years and that the organization is roughly 90 percent of the way to its $40,000 goal for pavilion funds.

“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.”

The Paddling Poker Run has been hosted in September the past two years, but that may change next year.

“I think next time we’ll try to do it in the summertime when it’s just a little bit warmer,” Keller said. “The weather scares some people away, but it was a fun time, overall.”

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