It all began in 2016 when a group of friends realized that they wanted more from a local poker run. With the 1000 Islands in their backyard, they realized it would be like no other run in the country. With the pristine waterways, sights of castles, architecture dating back to the late 1800’s, and miles of open water, they felt it would be well worth it to bring fellow power boaters here. From there, the 1000 Islands Charity Poker Run Corp. was formed and incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in March, 2017.
We approached both Alexandria Bay and Clayton, but in the end, Clayton was really excited about our concept. The Town had just finished an updated marina and the new hotel was within walking distance. The Team combined the positives from other poker runs and wrote a plan that was so robust it ensured we covered all the bases: defined maps, recovery plan, fully-insured event, docks, and parking, etc. The most important task to consider was a better safety plan. The plan included volunteers from local fire departments, local EMTs, divers, Marshall boats, support boats, experienced performance boaters, large manufacturer OEMS, state and local law enforcement, and finally US Coast Guard. This was to be a total volunteer effort. Our Team wanted it to be known we were all about safety. There was no room for error on the first event. We planned a drivers’ meeting that would go into detail to give all the pertinent safety information especially for boaters new to the area.
The first year was not without its hurdles. The host hotel needed a nonrefundable $10k deposit. One of our members took the $10K risk. How we were to feed six hundred plus people in a couple of hours was a challenge to figure out. Dinosaur BBQ came through. A few months before the event and we still didn’t have final approval. With the extra effort by our Team, the approvals were granted. These were just a few of the obstacles.
With the TICPR team, local volunteers, and our combined efforts of 1000’s of hours we were able to hit our mark. Each year, the Team challenges itself to come up with ideas to make the event more efficient and more exciting, bearing in mind without the financial support of sponsors and boat entries, none of this would be possible. Aside from the COVID years (2020 & 2021), with the website development, event app monitoring, and marketing campaigns helped build our event so we have been able to grow the revenue every year.
Our Team is comprised of successful business owners and community leaders:
• Bobby Cantwell – President
• Alexandra Buduson – Secretary
• Renee Lalonde – Treasurer
• Ken Lalonde – Director
• Court Rutherford – Director
• Jeff Morgan – Director
• Dave Montroy – Director
From the beginning, our mission was charitable and the Team agreed the money was to be donated back to a heartfelt cause. After the first year, we all felt that a benefit to children was a goal for all of us. This is how our relationship with Make-A-Wish CNY began. It was a perfect fit and continues to be just that. In both 2022 and 2023, TICPR has been the single largest donor to Make-A-Wish CNY with donations of $102,000 in 2022 and $205,000 in 2023. The donation in 2023 will assist the organization in granting 96 wishes, which is a number that has never been achieved. With the cost of an average wish of $8,400, our 2023 donation represents 24 wishes.
Our secondary benefactor is the local hospital, specifically the services offered for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress. The River Hospital provides outpatient behavioral health services for active duty military personnel, stationed at Fort Drum, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). With no other program like this in the country, River Hospital accepted the challenge and responsibility of offering outpatient mental health services designed specifically for active duty military personnel experiencing effects of PTS and difficulties related to stressful events experienced at pre-deployment, in-theater, post-deployment, or non-combat related incidences. The first three years of TICPR donations totaled greater than $25,000 and went to the capital campaign to rebuild the River Community Wellness Program wing of River Hospital. TICPR is recognized in one of the main therapy rooms by a plague on the wall. In 2022, River Hospital used our donation to buy prints from local artist, Michael Ringer, to soften up the rooms used by staff that provide mental health assessment and treatment to children, adolescents and those who care for them. In 2023, TICPR help provide comfortable furniture that replaced, in some cases, folding chairs.
With all the skills and efforts from our team, boaters from all over the US and Canada have enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Each year, we add excitement with new ideas and hopes to improve the boaters’ as well as the benefactors’ experience year after year. All this is done with the goal of keeping everyone coming back so we can continue giving to the community and making wishes come true. To date, the 1000 Islands Charity Poker Run Corp. has donated a total of $556,500.
The synergy of the performance boaters, local first responders, and volunteers has helped make this one of the leading events in the nation. We will continue to push ourselves with the long hours for the rewarding experience and to make this a long-standing event. Whether you are a boater, volunteer, sponsor, local first responder, veteran, or family looking for the positive impact of a granted wish, there are countless benefits felt by all. The 1000 Islands Charity Poker Run Corp. was formed with this mission and our Team will continue to strive to attain that goal each and every year.