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Caring Veterans of America memorial Coarsegold - photo courtesy of Paul Hall

Poker Run Benefits Caring Vets, Motorcycles And Cars Welcome

Submitted by Paul Hall –

COARSEGOLD – The Coarsegold-based Sierra Shadow Casters Motorcycle Club (SSC) is holding its annual Sierra Moonshine Poker Run on Saturday, Sept. 8, to benefit the Caring Veterans of America, Inc. (CVA)

Mountain folks are familiar with the beautiful new monument that stands majestically on the corner of Highway 41 and Road 415 in Coarsegold.

On Veterans Day 2017, the CVA dedicated the monument in honor of past, present and future vets from all branches of the service. The hope is the large granite tribute will also be a reminder to the public that our vets need their continued support.

It is a sad commentary when civilians and even the vets themselves find it necessary to form organizations to generate support for veterans, but that is exactly what has happened over the years.

That’s why an organization like CVA was created with the motto “Veterans Helping Veterans.” This amazing non-profit group is largely funded by donations from the civilian population but many of the more financially-able vets contribute as well.

CVA’s founder, Commander Terry Cole, 74, from Coarsegold, is a Vietnam Vet (101ST Airborne). He points out that there are about 7,000 veterans in the Mariposa/Madera mountain communities. Of those, only 45 are currently members of CVA. Most members are Vietnam-era and some are WWII guys. The younger vets are often not ready or able to join the cause. Commander Cole and his team are determined to reach all 7,000 in hopes they will utilize the CVS’s services if needed, or perhaps join the CVA to help other vets.

Despite its name, Caring Veterans of America in fact provides services to local vets. The organization hopes to form chapters in other states in the future.

Over the years, CVA has helped hundreds of mountain area veterans with rides to the VA Hospital in Fresno, or has given assistance with filling out the maze of VA paperwork. If a vet is unable to pay a utility bill, help is offered.

CVA hosts two “Stand Down” events per year where surplus military clothing is provided in large duffel bags to upwards of 200 vets, who can also get a hot meal, a haircut and most importantly, time to fraternize with fellow veterans. The VA used to provide the surplus items but now CVA must purchase them.

The CVA also works with homeless vets and those on the verge of suicide. They have been able to clothe and feed many homeless, arrange for counseling and get them into VA housing projects while others, unfortunately, were unable to overcome their depression and cut their lives short.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” says Commander Cole.

With an average annual budget of $40,000, the CVA hosts their own fundraising events such as their recent Car and Bike Show in Coarsegold and their annual raffle for guns. On given days you might find CVA members in front of the local market handing out stick flags which can garner a couple hundred bucks in donations.

The donations are helpful and appreciated but the goal is to increase the budget by double or more in 2019. That’s the challenge. Heretofore, no non-vet groups have come forward to hold a fundraiser on behalf of the CVA. Until now.

In their business meeting last winter the Sierra Shadow Casters Motorcycle Club voted to donate proceeds from their annual Sierra Moonshine Poker Run to the CVA.

“The SSC has several vets as members who are doing OK, but we know there are so many others that need the help and it just seemed appropriate to see what we could do for the CVA,” said SSC President Mark Aston.

Event organizers are hoping to not only get bikers from the mountain areas and Central Valley to come out en masse on Sept. 8 in support of our vets, but they are extending an invitation to the non-motorcycle riding community as well. In other words, everyone in the community is welcome; motorcycles are optional.

The event will feature the popular Fresno rock band Jaded. Forget burgers and hotdogs – bikers will enjoy tasty homemade tacos by Joe’s Catering. To help raise even more for the CVA, there will be tons of raffles, a silent auction and a special raffle with four drawings for valuable items.

The SSC reached out to the community and thus far has garnered the amazing support of Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, Sierra Telephone, Clawson Honda, Julio’s Pinstriping, Tenaya Lodge, Sportsman’s Wearhouse, Miller’s Landing and dozens of other businesses who have come on board to help support our vets.

Commander Cole, who is a vocal advocate of the biker community, had this to say about the poker run.

“This event is going to be a big shot in the arm for CVA. We are so pleased to have bikers and the community-at-large join hands with us in supporting our vets.”

If you don’t ride a motorcycle, it’s no problem. The SSC is inviting anyone in a car (classic or otherwise) to participate in the poker run.

Interested bikers and car enthusiasts are encouraged to preregister by visiting www.sierrashadowcasters.com or they can simply show up Sept. 8 between 8 and 9 a.m. at the CVA’s monument in the Historic Coarsegold Village (Highway 41 and Road 415). A donation of $30 per rider/driver and $20 per passenger will include all of the day’s activities and lunch, with a chance to win the poker hand cash.

Those unable to participate in the poker run in the morning are encouraged to join in the fun at the Oakhurst Elks Lodge on Highway 41, directly across from Road 222. Doors open at 1 p.m. Entrance donation is $15 for the food and entertainment. Parents are advised that this event is not structured to accommodate children under 18.

Those interested in donating raffle items of a $10 to $40 value or silent auction items valued at $80 or more may contact Paul Hall at (559) 660-6440.

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