FALL RIVER — The season of giving is underway, but charitable efforts got an extra head start on Ferry Street.
The 17th annual Borden Light Marina Charity Poker Run made quite a splash this August, with an event that exceeded expectations all around.
There were more boats, more spectators, and more activities, which led to more generous donations for a couple of really good causes.
"This is the biggest event we've had, the most money we've donated so far," said Nicole Lund, who organizes the Poker Run along with husband Michael.
A total of 48 high-performance powerboats launched from Borden Light Marina and took to the waters of Mount Hope Bay this summer for the annual event, which draws participants from all over the country.
Last year, the Poker Run raised $53,000, which the Lunds, owners of Borden Light Marina, Tipsy Seagull and Pier 52, succeeded in topping this year. The 2023 event raised $62,000 — a combination of boat registration, as well as local sponsors like Empire Hyundai and national sponsors like Cigarette Racing — "which was incredible," Nicole Lund said.
Start your engines: Charity Poker Run returns to Fall River waterfront
Proceeds were split 50-50 between Make-A-Wish Massachusetts & Rhode Island and the New York-based Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides financial help to families of fallen or injured first-responders and military personnel.
On average it costs about $10,000 per wish, so BLM's $31,000 Make-A-Wish donation will help to make three wishes come true.
"It's been fun to watch how this event has grown over the years and Make-A-Wish Massachusetts & Rhode Island is so lucky to benefit from it," said Sean Holleran, CEO of Make-A-Wish Massachusetts & Rhode Island. "This year's proceeds will help us grant wishes for three local children, giving them the hope and joy they need to fight their critical illnesses. We're really appreciative of Nicole, Mike, the team at Borden Light Marina, and all of the event's generous supporters."
The Poker Run may only be a weekend-long affair, but planning for the event happens year-round and requires lots of work. For Lund, getting to meet individuals who have been positively impacted by their contributions, and those of others who've organized similar events, is reward enough for her efforts.
Recipients from both organizations attended this year's Poker Run, including the widow of a Cape Cod firefighter who received mortgage assistance through Tunnel to Towers.
According to Lund, the woman, who stayed at a nearby hotel and hung out at the Tipsy Seagull for the night, told Poker Run participants she hadn't had that much fun since her husband died.
"That right there, for me, is worth every minute of planning," Lund said.
What started as just a fun event with a few small boats has gotten bigger and better each year, Lund said. In recent years, the pair have taken it to the next level with big sponsors, brunch and dinner for participating boaters at Pier 52, merchandise sales, and raffles.
It's slowly evolved into a popular summer tradition on the Fall River waterfront, with folks from far and near flocking to the Tipsy Seagull to get in on the fun. This year, in addition to the race, activities included a dunk tank, which alone raised roughly $1,300 and was a hit with kids.
"It just keeps growing. We joke that we're gonna run out of space to host everybody," said Lund.
Boats may be out of the water for the winter, but the Lunds are already eyeing next season. Save the date — the Borden Light Marina Charity Poker Run will be returning Aug. 3, 2024.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Borden Light Marina owners: 2023 poker run their biggest yet