by Leanne Loy
Ten years ago, Josh Schmitz decided to do something special for his mom’s cousin, (who was actually more like an aunt) and was battling cancer. He got together with some family and friends and contacted the Relay for Life to see how they could help. Having been riding motorcycles since he was 19, Schmitz decided a great way to earn money for his team would be to start a poker run. That was back in 2012, and the tradition has continued.
Unfortunately, Schmitz’s mom’s cousin passed away, but he and his family and friends still wanted to help those who are struggling with this terrible disease. What started out with about seven or eight bikes in the run, has now grown to almost 100 and that’s not the only progress they’ve made.
For the first few years the money donated through the poker run would go to Relay for Life to help those in need. A few years in, they started to give their donations to the American Cancer society, another very worthy program who essentially put on the Relay for Life program. As the years went on, Schmitz and his team of do-gooders decided that it might mean more if they started to focus on one individual in the community.
“We decided we keep putting all this money into organizations that are absolutely important,” Schmitz said. “But would it mean more if we donated to a specific individual every year? And that’s what we’re doing now.”
This year’s beneficiary is Shelley Ostendorf, a woman from Holdingford who has been battling cancer since August of 2020.
“She is an incredible woman” Schmitz said.
Schmitz wants the public to know this is an open event to anyone who wants to join.
“It doesn’t cost anything to be in the poker run and all are welcome.” Schmitz said, “It doesn’t matter if you have a bike, a classic car, a minivan or a rent a bus, you’re welcome to be here.”
This year they will be starting at the La Playette in St. Joseph. Registration starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18. From there the run will take them through Holdingford, (where Ostendorf is from) to Freeport, St. Martin, Rockville, and then back to the La Playette where they will be holding a silent auction. Donations are taken at each stop.
Schmitz talks about all the help he has had coordinating the event each year. There is a committee of 13 people including family, his wife Kaitlyn and friends he’s made throughout the years. But the bar owners have really stepped up and helped as well.
“Them helping out, coordinating what’s happening at their bar, is absolutely huge.” Schmitz said. “Especially when you’re dealing with the amount of people we’re bringing in.”
This will be the third year they are supporting an individual rather than an organization. Previous beneficiaries are a woman from Richmond and last year’s beneficiary, Triston, a 19-year-old man from Osakis.
“The biggest thing, is that we are not in it for ourselves.” Schmitz said. “It’s about the person we are trying to support. No one wants to battle that. It means a lot when you have an individual that’s battling cancer to be able to be supported by people locally. And especially when it’s coming from a community [of bikers] that doesn’t get the best rep. This biker community is very, very generous and charitable.”
“It’s all about the person we’re trying to support,” Schmitz continued. “And to have them know that when they step out into this battle with cancer, they are not alone.”
The Joe Boys’ poker run is an official non-profit organization. To learn more and find ways to donate please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Joe-Boys-Poker-Run-Inc-497020786997636.