‘Pedaling’ a cause: Bike run raises $12,980 to help family in need

Lance Shearer

The big-hearted, beer-drinking bicyclists of Marco Island turned out in a big way on Saturday. The 9th Annual Tour de Taverns brought out 256 riders for a “poker run,” riding from one watering hole to another to pick up another card for their poker hand, perhaps indulge in a libation, and on Saturday, wait out a rain squall on a raw day.

Guest of honor Anthony Nieto, 12, dances with an admirer. Over 250 cyclists participated in the Tour de Taverns on a rainy Saturday, raising funds to help a family in need.

The emphasis was on having a good time, but it was a good time for a good cause. By the end of the Tour, the group raised nearly $13,000 to help a family that can certainly use the assistance. Anthony Nieto, 12, lives in Bonita Springs with his mother Elva, his brother Daniel, and sister Mia, 4. Anthony has leukemia, and has had to undergo four years of chemotherapy. In addition, he developed meningitis in his brain, said his mother, and gets seizures.

Then came Hurricane Irma.

“We lost our home – Irma took the whole roof and blew it away,” said Elva Nieto. “They had to destroy it. Now, we move around – staying with my brother or a friend. I’m a single mother. We don’t have nothing.” The family is hoping to get approval from FEMA for hotel accommodations until they can get a new mobile home, but they are still waiting.

Elva sat at a table at the Speakeasy, where the poker run finished up, surrounded by her children. Except for Anthony – he was fascinated by singer Johnny Fusco, providing entertainment for the cyclists as they arrived and checked in, and couldn’t stop smiling and moving to the beat. “He loves music,” said his mother.

The riders started their journey at Mario’s at 10 in the morning, and stopped at the Crazy Flamingo, the Salty Dog, CJ’s on the Bay, the Snook Inn, and the Old Marco Pub before reaching the Speakeasy. At that point, a number of cyclists were glowing from the beers they had imbibed, as well as the Christmas lights, reindeer antlers, and candy cane hats that some sported.

Chef Selem Lake of the Speakeasy kept the food coming, after having first put together the breakfast buffet at Mario’s to start the riders off with some hearty fuel. Volunteers including Susan Boylan circulated through the crowd at each stop, selling raffle tickets, with an arms’ length going for $20. With over 250 riders drawing their poker hands – and 296 signed up and paid to ride, said organizer Jimmy Boylan, so there were some no-shows – a mere royal flush was not enough to win the pot. Six of the group ended up with nothing but aces, so the winner of the poker run was decided by drawing one more card.

Jennie Huy smoked the competition, drawing one more ace, winning the $100 prize, and promptly donated it back to the cause, which earned her a big hug from Anthony Nieto. Boylan also raffled or auctioned off prizes including Jetski tours, hotel stays, and four beer-themed bicycles.

The most sought-after bike was emblazoned with “Fat Tire” from New Belgium brewery, and ironically, said Boylan, was the only one of the bicycles that did not actually have fat tires.

“We had an awesome time – the rain was nothing,” said Yvonne Santos. “We went the distance. This is a great event for an awesome cause.”

“What’s great about the Tour, it’s a people’s event,” said attorney Fred Kramer, riding with his law partner Peter Huy, whose wife Jennie won the poker game. “The city’s not involved, the chamber’s not involved, the Rotary – it’s just people helping people.”

If you missed the ride but would like to donate to help Anthony and his family, call Jim Boylan at 239-595-6292 or email Boylan830@gmail.com.