Poker run benefits local youth |

Poker run benefits local youth

by Sarah Hauck
Connor, 8, caught a rainbow trout at June 26 at Caples Lake after his last trip to Michigan to see his doctors.
Special to The R-C |

Classic cars and motorcycles will rumble through Carson Valley on July 25 with a single purpose in mind; helping a local child struggling with his health.

Reno Harley riders Suzanne Van Blaricom and Kim Young help a child in need each year with a fundraiser, this year focusing on Connor McEwen, 8, with the Ride for Connor Poker Run.

“Kim approached me last year to help him with a fundraiser for a local girl with cystic fibrosis,” Van Blaricom said. “That event was a great success and beyond rewarding. When it ended, Kim and I decided we would make this an annual event helping local families in need. To be able to give them some relief from the financial burden is our primary purpose as well as raising awareness about renal artery stenosis.”

Following a fall from his bike that required surgery on his elbow, Connor’s already high blood pressure skyrocketed, revealing the issue with his kidneys.

On Sept. 8, 2014, Connor was diagnosed with renal artery stenosis, a disease that narrows the arteries to the kidneys.

Because the kidneys sense less blood, they signal the body to increase blood pressure.

Over time, the disease can lead to kidney failure.

Connor also is one of 1 percent of the population who has two arteries connected to each of his kidneys.

“Connor takes 200 pills a month for his dosage for his high blood pressure,” Connor’s mother Andrea McEwen said. “His heart is compensating for his kidneys.”

The McEwens travel to Michigan every two months to monitor Connor’s condition.

The poker run proceeds will be given to the McEwens to help with the cost of Connor’s medical needs as well as travel.

“For someone to reach out and know us and say they want to do this for us and our son has been an absolute blessing for us,” McEwen said.

The poker run will start at BJ’s BBQ in Sparks and travel to various locations in Reno before making its way into Carson Valley stopping at the Carson Valley Inn and The Genoa Bar.

“Because we’re from Gardnerville we wanted to make sure the ride got down here,” McEwen said. “We’re opening this up to the entire community.”

Finishing at Czyz’s Appliances in Reno, riders and supporters will be able to enjoy live music, barbecue, a silent auction and a chance to win a Harley Davidson.

“We want everyone to come and make memories and have a great experience,” Van Blaricom said. “Whether they participate in the poker run or just come to Czyz’s for great food, music and prizes, show up and support Connor and his family. It’s a great cause. I can’t imagine what this family goes through, and to have so many come out and support them and turn this event into a great success is our main focus.”

While the poker run is primarily to raise funds for the family, the McEwens also want to use it as a way of educating parents and grandparents about the disease.

“This has been such a blessing of a journey and we know we were put on this journey for a reason,” McEwen said. “We want to educate parents and grandparents about the importance of having your child’s blood pressure taken. If we had gotten Connor’s taken we would have had a diagnosis sooner and his condition may not have progressed the way it has.”

Having a child’s blood pressure taken on a regular basis can help diagnosis many different things McEwen said.

“Even though your child is only 5, make sure they are getting their blood pressure taken,” she said. “You can tell a lot from a person’s blood pressure.”

Van Blaricom encourages anyone with a classic car or motorcycle to register for the poker run, or to come out for the event.

“None of this could be possible without hundreds of people in our community reaching out and sponsoring the event, donating money, gifts and time as well,” Van Blaricom said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be part of that words can’t express. Our community, both Reno/Sparks all the way down to the Carson Valley is pulling for the McEwen’s and Connor. I just want to say that it is incredible to be a part of something like this. Todd and Andrea are amazing, loving, and devoted parents. I’m really excited to see everyone coming together to pull for them.”

Registration for a vehicle is $20 per driver and $10 for each additional rider.

Raffle tickets for the Harley Davidson are $10 each.

Prizes for best high and low hands will be awarded.

Registration is 8-10 a.m. at BJ’s BBQ, 80 East Victorian Ave. in Sparks.

For more information, to register or to buy raffle tickets for the Harley call Van Blaricom at 775-843-6065.

A donation account has been opened in Connor’s name at Wells Fargo.

The account name is Ride For Connor. The account number is 5383066080.