DU QUOIN — Participants in the Kroger Big K Poker Run 2012 on Saturday looked close to those of last year’s total of 1,400 as they gathered at the Du Quoin State Fair on Saturday.

“It’s neat to see and hear the bikes especially when they take off, These are very generous people. It’s amazing. It’s a great event,” said Rebecca Kill, whose husband, former SIU football coach Jerry Kill established a cancer fund administered by Southern Illinois Healthcare in 2005 to help offset the healthcare costs of people fighting cancer.

Proceeds from the poker run estimated at more than $50,000 go to the cancer fund.

“There is no goal as to a total amount raised. We have no administration costs. There are more than 100 volunteers working it today. We plan year-round for this event,” said Assistant Manager Nathan Earnhart of the Kroger store in Marion.

One of those who has benefited from the generosity of the Coach Kill cancer fund is Cindy Welch of Mount Vernon, who rode in the event in 2010. She underwent cancer surgery two weeks earlier and couldn’t ride in this year’s run. But Welch was there Saturday, ready to lend a volunteer hand wherever needed.

“They (the Coach Kill fund) don’t put you through the red tape. They are so willing to help,” Welch said.

This was a day, however, for motorcyclists. Asked if he was going to ardently pursue a winning poker hand at the five draw locations on the 164-mile course over a five-county area, Chris Menckowski of Mulkeytown said no with a laugh.

“I’m just wanting a nice ride to enjoy the fresh air and freedom,” Menckowski said.

Ray Caplinger of Hoyleton who owns Dairy Queen stores in Nashville and Carlyle, felt much the same way.

“I’m just here for the ride and of course that steak dinner at the end. I like the freedom, wind in your hair and bugs in the teeth during the ride,” he said.

At the run’s end, Ron Hart won a prize for the worst poker hand. Nicole King had the best poker hand.

The big winner was Steve Anderson, who won a 2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback motorcycle.

According to Gina Sherland of Kroger, about 1,200 riders participated in the event.

The Kroger Big K Poker Run has raised more than $260,000 over the past six years for the Coach Kill Cancer Fund.

618-351-5076

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