Poker Run raises more than $1,000 for Ladysmith charities

A Veterans Motorcycle Club Poker Run raised money for the Royal Canadian Legion poppy fund and the Ladysmith Food Bank.

The South Vancouver Island branch of the Veterans Motorcycle Club hosted a fundraising Poker Run Saturday. Pictured are a few of the participants starting out on the run at First Avenue and Roberts Street.

The South Vancouver Island branch of the Veterans Motorcycle Club hosted a fundraising Poker Run Saturday. Pictured are a few of the participants starting out on the run at First Avenue and Roberts Street.

A local group of motorcycle enthusiasts did what they love most over the weekend to raise just over $1,000 for the Royal Canadian Legion poppy fund and the Ladysmith Food Bank.

The South Vancouver Island branch of the Veterans Motorcycle Club (VMC) hosted a Poker Run Saturday to raise the funds. More than 50 riders participated in the event.

“We had a wonderful time,” said South Island Crew vice-president Bill McCasky.

Participants rode to designated stops in Duncan, Shawnigan Lake and Crofton before returning to the VMC clubhouse on Third Avenue for a barbecue.

The event marked the sixth annual Poker Run for the national club, which honours founding member Mike Starker of Calgary, who was killed in Afghanistan. McCasky said the event went so well that plans are already in the works to host it in Ladysmith again next year.

The Veterans Motorcycle Club is open to past and current war veterans and has clubhouses in New Brunswick, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Calgary and Ladysmith.

Members of the VMC have undertaken fundraising to help one of their own. Cpl. Brock Blaszczyk, an Afghanistan veteran, was severely injured in 2010 when an underground explosive took his lower left leg and severely damaged the right. The club is raising money to convert Blaszczyk’s Harley Davidson motorcycle into a trike to allow him the freedom to ride again. Donations for that project were also accepted at Saturday’s Poker Run.

Blaszczyk, who flew out from his home in Alberta to attend, said he was blown away by the club’s efforts.

“It feels really good,” he said. “It’s a way of piecing life together and making it normal.”

Blaszczyk said he joined the VMC shortly after returning from the military.

“One of the things that the guys miss from the military when they leave is the whole brotherhood aspect,” he said. “This is about brothers looking out for one another.”

Mccasky said the group has been working hard to dispel misconceptions about the club, which sports a three-piece patch as its logo.

“Just because we have a patch on our backs doesn’t make us bad or like television depicts us,” he said. “We, the Veterans MC, are here for the community and all veterans. We just try to give brotherhood and help our community.”

Glenda Patterson, who has lived in the house next door to the clubhouse for more than 40 years, said she is saddened by the reputation they have received.

“They’re great neighbours; I don’t have a problem with any of them,” she said. “We never have a complaint, and they’re willing to help us with anything.”

An open house is generally held Fridays at their Ladysmith clubhouse from 7 p.m. on for anyone wanting to come by and learn more or ask questions about the VMC.

“We want [people] to open their hearts and minds to who we are,” McCasky said.