In 2004, after spending 22 weeks in a wheelchair recovering from surgery, Michael Gray, a Palmetto Middle School student, started a poker tournament to raise money for wheelchair repairs. Three years ago, when he went off to college, the reigns were handed over to the Morrison brothers (Brian, 13 and Jay, 11) and they haven’t looked back. This year, Jared Heller (age 14) joined them. Jared, heavily involved with B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), brought dozens of his friends to the event.
Brian Morrison (age 13), brother Jay Morrison (age 11) and Jared Heller (age 14) run the annual CCDH poker tournament.
The 2+ hour mock Texas Hold ‘Em Tourney, held at Bet Shira Congregation on Sunday February 5, 2012, started with ten tables and progressively whittled down to one table with the best players. The winner, Palmetto Senior High School 9th grader, Tony Cai, took home the donated grand prize of a 32” flat-screen HDTV. During the event, there were raffles for dozens of prizes and a silent auction. Pizza, snacks and beverages were served, as were smiles and a good time.
The event drew people age 7-75. Jared Heller used Facebook, email and text messaging to promote the poker tournament. He was delighted to say that, “friends and family sent in donations even if they were unable to attend.” He was “excited and happy that it turned out so well.” Brian Morrison was pleased with the great turnout and amazing community support. Jay Morrison took great pride in setting up for the event and being part of announcing the raffle winners.
All three boys worked hard to get donations for the event. As usual, local businesses were glad to participate. Wagons West, Original Lots of Lox, Ruben’s Cuban, House of Bagels, Alf's Golf Shop, Tutti Frutti, Subway, Anacapri, Oye Cuban Grill, Kings Bay Athletics, M Cycle Gym, Wayside Market and SoMi Fitness all chipped in.
Each year, the poker tournament sends its proceeds to the Community Committee for Developmental Handicaps (CCDH), who in turn use the money to fix wheelchairs for those who can’t afford it. This year’s event attracted more than 100 people and raised nearly $5000.