EVANSTON — Stereotypes can be difficult to overcome. Some might think bikers are bad to the bone — tough, angry, bar-fighting hooligans looking for trouble.
“The way people see bikers or motorcyclists, they get a bad impression,” Badland Bandits President Ray McBroon said.
While there may be a few bad apples in any basket, local bikers are well on their way to breaking that stereotype — if they haven’t already.
One thing, however, is true of all motorcyclists: they love to ride. And for years, bikers from Uinta County have turned that love into support for charitable causes.
The Badland Bandits, a group based in Evanston will hold its first charitable poker run on June 17. Poker runs typically span hundreds of miles, as participants travel from bar to bar, collecting a card at each stop. By the last stop, they have enough cards for a poker hand. Typically, payouts go to the people with the best and the worst hands. No motorcycle required: the event is open to any type of vehicle.
The Bandits’ run costs $25, and participants can play an extra poker hand for another $15. Riders enjoy hours on the road, good company, but most of all, they enjoy giving back. The Bandits will donate all proceeds from the event to Uinta Senior Citizens, Inc., to help the organization’s home delivery meal program.
McBroon said the group is made up of people from all walks of life.
“We’re friends, we’re doctors, we’re lawyers, we’re police officers, you know, we work in the oilfield — we’re just a bunch of people that like to ride,” McBroon said. “… We decided, you know, we need to do something to get ourselves out in the public. … We’re here to support the public. … We want to do something for them.”
McBroon said the senior center’s meal delivery program is close to his heart — his mother, a cancer survivor, utilized the service when she needed the help.
“She developed cancer about 10 years ago and kind of hid it from the family,” he said. “Five years ago, she starting getting worse and worse. She had breast cancer and didn’t want to do any chemo or anything.”
Eventually, McBroon said, his mother conceded to have surgery.
“She’s doing real good now and back on her feet and getting around,” he said.
McBroon said he heard the program had received funding cuts, so when the Bandits voted on a beneficiary of the poker run, the group chose the senior center.
“It was just kind of one of those things, you know? … These people need this,” he said. “They can’t get out. They can’t get up and cook … they need someone to at least feed them once a day or twice a day.”
He said he’s known a lot of elderly people who’ve benefited from similar programs, including his grandma, who died from cancer.
“My uncle, he’s on it now [and] he’s a vet.”
The Badland Bandits poker run will begin at the Bumble Bee, where signups are scheduled between 9 and 10 a.m. Participants will eat breakfast then hit the road between 10 and 10:30 a.m.
The first stop will be at the Jim Bridger Club in the Valley, followed by Green Gander Bar in Green River. Stop three will bring the run back to the Valley, where participants will draw a card at Mountain View’s Bridger Valley Lanes.
Riders will head west, drawing a fourth card at the Eagles Club in Evanston, before rolling in to Spanky’s Bar, also in Evanston. The final destination will be just down the street from Spanky’s at Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds, where participants will show their hands and enjoy dinner and live music.
The Bandits also plan to hold a Christmas party and dinner this year to benefit 10 children in need.
Paving the way for charitable poker runs, Spanky’s organizes and hosts its own poker run, led by Marsha and Ian Redding, the bar’s owners. This year will mark the seventh year Spanky’s has organized a run to benefit fallen bikers. Proceeds go to family members of fallen bikers for scholarships, among other things.
The Spanky’s Annual Poker Run and Party is scheduled for July 8, and costs $25. As with the Bandits’ run, Spanky’s allows any type of vehicle. Marsha Redding said that while the biker community is fun and up for a ride, nothing brings bikers in this area together more than the opportunity to help others.
“The biker community is incredibly generous, kind and always willing to support great causes,” Redding said. “The biker community around here just loves to ride, and anytime there is an event for a cause, there is always a large number of local riders that participate. There is a group out of Rock Springs that does an annual ride to honor a special child with cancer, which we’ve been honored to be a part of.”
Redding said not only does the child benefit from it, but it means a lot to her and other participants.
“Nothing beats seeing the child’s eyes light up when they see close to 200 motorcycles roll down the road for them and to pick them up and take them on a ride,” she said.
Spanky’s poker run started after fellow biker Lee Nickerson talked to the Reddings about starting an event for fallen riders. From fewer than 20 participants the first year, the run has grown significantly.
Redding said last year’s event brought in about 90 riders.
Spanky’s run has raised about $5,000 over the years, including $2,100 last year.
This year’s event will begin and end at Spanky’s Bar, where participants will register between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. From there, riders will head to Bunny’s Club in Coalville, Utah, to draw a second card. The third stop will be The Notch in Samak, Utah.
Redding said the fourth stop is yet to be determined, but the fifth card can be found back at Spanky’s, where participants will show their hands and enjoy a nice spread of food.
The crowd will also be entertained by Phat Daddy, who will perform on the back deck by the river at 6 p.m.
Redding said the biking community supports other causes, as well.
“We have members of BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) that always participate in local rides that typically are for a special cause,” she said.
“We all support local charities, fundraisers and events. The NVAR (National Veterans Awareness Ride) run is coming up [on] May 18, and several of our local riders will be joining the group at the Echo Rest Area to escort them into Wyoming and down to the VFW,” Redding continued. “This is a great honor to all involved to show support for our veterans.”