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Oct. 21, 2019
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11th Annual Pirates of Lanier Poker Run

 
By Pamela A. Keene
 
When the boats take to the water on Saturday, July 20, it’s for the kids. From the very beginning 11 years ago, organizers of the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run have always said “It’s for the kids.”
 
“That is still true today in so many ways,” said Barkley Geib, president of Lanier Partners, who have sponsored the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run for the past 10 years. “I can honestly say that the majority of the people who participate in the event – and of course our many loyal volunteers – know that spending the day on the water in mid-July is for the benefit of our children’s charities – Camp Twin Lakes, Camp Sunshine, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, and the Edmonson Telford Child Advocacy Center. We make that crystal clear.” 
 
From the very beginning, the group recognized that children in need can be supported through an event that’s also fun and family oriented. As the vision of the original founders, this approach is prevalent today.
 
“Back in the day, Rea Williams and other founders put out the idea that we should focus on kids’ charities and everyone embraced the idea,” Geib said. “He was quite a visionary about this event and all the good that it could do.” 
 
People dress in pirate costumers and decorate their boats to look like square-riggers and pirate ships. As they progress between card stops around Lake Lanier, crew members smile and wave ­– and make pirate sounds: ARGH! – at volunteers handing out cards, passersby and fellow boaters. And while the people who participate are all smiles, some may not know much other than the names of the specific children’s charities that benefit from this annual three-day event.
 
Camp Twin Lakes, www.camptwinlakes.org, operates three facilities in Georgia. The first overnight camp, Camp Rutledge in Morgan County, opened in 1992. It serves as the organization’s headquarters. The camp located in Barrow County is known as Camp Twin Lakes at Will-A-Way and opened in 2009 in partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in a non-public area of Fort Yargo State Park. The third, Camp Dream, is located at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation and opened in 2011. 
 
The Camp Twin Lakes Will-A-Way campus has a state-of-the-art swimming pool adaptable for wheelchairs and easy access, beach volleyball, Bocce ball, plus lakeside activities such as sailing, kayaking and fishing. Staff assists campers with various outdoor activities, including high ropes, team challenge course, zip line and climbing tower. 
 
Camp Twin Lakes, an independent non-profit, partners with other non-profit organizations including the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation, Camp Sunshine, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Muscular Dystrophy Association of Georgia and The Marcus Center, allowing more than 10,000 campers each year to have life-changing experiences through medically supportive camping, day camps and other programs.
 
The camp operates year-round. Weeklong summer camps and weekend activities provide programming for youth ages 6 to 17. It provides handicap-accessible facilities, recreational and activities programming, counselors, therapeutic recreation specialists, a medical coordinator, plus three meals a day and snacks under the direction of dietary staff. It is accredited by the American Camp Association and has served as a model for similar camps across the nation. 
 
Camp Sunshine, www.mycampsunshine.com, a camp for children with cancer, is one of the organizations that partners with Camp Twin Lakes, using the facility and staff to provide normal activities including swimming, horseback riding and arts and crafts, helping campers realize their own inner strength and power and forging friendships.
 
Additionally, Camp Sunshine offers year-round recreational, educational and support programming for family members, parents, brothers and sisters of cancer patients.
 
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, www.boysgirlsclubs.com, was founded in 1954 as a safe and fun place for children. By 2017 is was serving more than 6,000 youth annually, from age 6 to 18. It continues to add more sites and programming to reach more young people. From helping members improve their academic performance and building leadership skills to teaching character and providing recreation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier are a beacon in the community. 
 
Club facilities include the Joseph F. Walters Club, Positive Place, Teen Center, Melrose Community, Cumming Elementary, Centennial Arts Academy, Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Fair Street International Academy, Gainesville Exploration Academy, New Holland Knowledge Academy, Chicopee Woods Elementary, Lula Elementary, Mundy Mill Learning Academy, Tadmore Elementary and White Sulphur Elementary.
 
The Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville, www.etcac.org, works with children who have been affected by abuse, advocating for these children on many levels. It also provides education for the community about signs of child abuse and preventive measures. It serves children in Dawson and Hall counties, not only in helping these children recover from their abuse but to also actively participate in seeking justice. 
 
“Each of these groups powerfully affects and supports the lives of our future – the children,” Geib said. “That’s what keeps us going with our event year after year.”
 
Typically, the event attracts at least 200 or more boaters in all kinds of boats, from pontoons to cruisers. And while the majority of participants return each year, new boaters join as well. “We have many loyal boaters – from locals to those who come in from out of town and out of state – who come back each year,” Geib said. “And in looking back over the years, I can’t think of a single person who has kept the money they’ve won from their poker hands. It’s just in their hearts to give back to the kids, and after all, that’s what it’s about, isn’t it?”

 
11th Annual Pirates of Lanier Poker Run
  • July 18-20, Lanier Islands/Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
  • July 18 – Meet and Greet
  • July 19 – Cheeseburger on Paradise Beach, Captains’ Safety Meeting, Auctions
  • July 20 – The Big Event Poker Run, Casino Night and Awards, plus Fireworks
  • To register or more info: www.piratesoflanier.com.
  • Raffle: Twin Yamaha GP1800 Waverunners with a tandem trailer. The jet skis prize was made possible by Park Marine.

Posted online 6/28/19
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