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Motorcycle ride, good eats focus of Miracle League fundraiser

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Miracle League volunteer and Newton County resident Chris Branan, whose 8-year-old son Jake Branan plans to play baseball in the league, displays playing cards as he sits on a Can Am Spyder RT, a three-wheel motorcycle, supplied by Mountain Motorsports, to promote the upcoming Miracle League Wheels for Diamonds Poker Run, set for Sept. 29.

The first annual Miracle League Wheels for Diamonds Poker Run is not only a way to support the special-needs community, it's also a pretty good deal for the cost.

A $30 rider fee provides lunch at No Mas, a hip, urban Mexican restaurant, a barbecue dinner, free food and drink at all the stops, live music, a T-shirt, souvenir cup and a chance to win $500.

"We wanted to really do it big, so we would have a following," said Miracle League Association National Program Director Stephanie Davis.

The Miracle League Poker Run, a fundraiser for the Miracle League Association in Rockdale County, takes place on Sept. 29, with registration beginning at 10:30 a.m. at Mountain Motorsports, 899 Iris Drive in Conyers, and departure at noon.

The event is primarily for motorcyclists, who will convene at Mountain Motorsports, ride to downtown Atlanta to visit No Mas for lunch, travel to the Harley Davidson of Atlanta, move on to Hunter Park in Douglasville to watch a Miracle League exhibition game, and finally end up at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta for dinner. The estimated time of the dinner is 5 p.m., with festivities lasting until 9 p.m.

At each stop, riders collect a playing card and whomever has the best poker hand at the end of the ride wins $500.

Stops allow time for the riders to visit with the Miracle League athletes. The athletes are children and adults with mental or physical challenges who play baseball on Miracle League fields specially adapted to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and other devices that assist with mobility.

The national headquarters of the nonprofit Miracle League Association is based in Conyers, where the first Miracle League field began operation in 2001.

The Miracle League Association provides financial support to the Miracle League in Conyers, which serves up to 200 athletes from Rockdale and surrounding counties, including Newton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Henry and Walton.

The Rockdale Miracle League operates under the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association and has a fall and spring season. RYBA also coordinates buddy volunteers who help the athletes navigate the field.

"We recommend the parents relax and watch from the stands. That may be one hour a day when they don't have to be one-on-one (with their child)," said Davis.

The Miracle League also provides assistance -- such as recommendations on how to build the field and raise funds for it -- to other communities who have started their own Miracle Leagues, including Newton County, which should have its field constructed within a year, said Davis.

In total, the Miracle League Association provides guidance for 255 Miracle League Organizations across the world in places as far away as Australia, Canada and Puerto Rico.

"We average about three new cities a month," said Davis of the growth of Miracle League Organizations.

This year's Miracle League Poker Run is a change from the gospel concert fundraisers held over the last several years, which garnered between $20,000 and $30,000 dollars, said Davis.

Davis said other Miracle League Organizations had great success with motorcycle ride fundraisers, which inspired the national office to try one.

"The biker groups had been very involved as volunteer groups and donors and we started looking into it," said Davis.

"We found that the biker crowds and some of those organizations (connected with them) are some of the most caring individuals out there, so that's when we decided to do something with that arena of people."

The Miracle League Poker Run is also open to cars, and Davis said the goal is to attract 100 riders. So far, only a handful have registered, but Davis said those who participate in motorcycle rides typically sign up the day of the event.

"We're praying for good weather," said Davis.

To register for the Miracle League Wheels for Diamonds Poker Run, visit www.miracleleague.com or contact Stephanie Davis at 770-760-1933 or stephanie@miracleleague.com.

If you go

What: Miracle League Wheels for Diamonds Poker Run

When: 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 29

Where: Ride departs at Mountain Motorsports, 899 Iris Drive in Conyers, and ends at the Georgia Freight Depot, 65 Martin Luther King Drive in Atlanta.

Cost: Rider fee is $30 and run is open to motorcycles and cars.

Info: To register, visit www.miracleleague.com or contact Stephanie Davis at 770-760-1933 or stephanie@miracleleague.com.