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Economic crunch almost cancels Kids for Christmas

'Poker runs' usually raise enough money to finance event

Lottery winner saves day

December 17, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Santa hands Gabriella Tablada, 1, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a candy cane during the eighth annual Kids for Christmas event in the community hall of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Inwood, W.Va.
Santa hands Gabriella Tablada, 1, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a candy cane during the eighth annual Kids for Christmas event in the community hall of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Inwood, W.Va.

INWOOD, W.Va. — Deciding between a "choo-choo or a pumpkin" for Christmas posed a serious dilemma for 2-year-old Connor Friday night at the Kids for Christmas program.

Mom, Devon Silver, helped him decide.

"Connor, you only want a pumpkin so you can make faces at it," Silver said.

The Silver family, including parents Devon and Cody, Alexis, 9, Jessica, 8, Hunter, 7, Hannah, 5 and Connor, joined more than 60 other children and their parents at the eighth annual Kids for Christmas event in the community hall of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.

The event, which started eight years ago, is an offshoot of a series of charitable motorcycle rallies called "poker runs" sponsored by chopper buddies Mike McBrearty and Mike Powers. Profits from the runs helped individual children and adults with serious medical problems.

"A 'good' poker run could net $4,000 to $5,000," Powers said.

The men began holding more runs to finance their Kids for Christmas program. Until this year, the rallies raised enough money to support the annual holiday event.

The economic meltdown has caused the number of families applying for the holiday gift program to double from last year. There was also a corresponding drop in the number of motorcyclists who ride in the poker runs, McBrearty said.

His wife, Dawn McBrearty, who is the third member of the Kids for Christmas team, said this year's event, even with business and individual donations, came up short — that is, until Randy Smith, a former Berkeley County magistrate who recently netted $39 million in a lottery, kicked in $8,000 to guarantee its success.

"Without Randy's help we couldn't have done it this year. He came to us," she said.

She buys the clothes and toys that parents put on their children's Christmas list.

"I started at midnight on Black Friday hitting the big-box stores," she said. "I try to buy everything the children want on their lists and make sure I get their right clothes sizes."

Dawn McBrearty said she spends from $150 to $200 on each child. The families are chosen according to need by Berkeley County school officials.

Each child received a gift from Santa Friday night, and the families enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner. They also took a bag of toys home for Christmas morning and a Christmas dinner to cook at home.

Next year McBrearty and Powers are replacing the poker runs with a four-day fundraiser on the Eastern Regional Airport grounds they're calling, the "West Virginia Rumble in the Valley."

McBrearty predicts the event will draw "10,000 to 20,000" motorcyclists and fans.

It will be held June 23-26 and is "geared for motorcycle riders," he said.

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