Evan Walker Memorial Poker Run passes through Calaveras

Evan Walker’s 2003 graduation photo is seen. The Evan Walker Memorial Poker run seeks to raise funds for special education programs in schools in Calaveas and Tuolumne counties.

The fourth annual Evan Walker Memorial Poker Run will wind its way through the backroads and scenic byways of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties on Sept. 14 to raise funds for special education programs in both counties’ schools.

As a youth, Walker was on what some would consider the fast-track to NASCAR racing.

He began racing go-karts at the age of 7, becoming the 1996 West Coast champion – International Kart Federation. From there he raced his way to Legend cars by the time he was 17 years old as a semi pro.

On Sept. 13, 2003, Walker made a choice that would shake his entire family to the core; he took himself off his medication for attention deficit disorder (ADD) without telling his parents, got on a Yamaha VFR 600 without a helmet, and lost control at a high rate of speed. The impact took his life.

Thirteen years after that fateful event, the family felt it was time to mend and to help others just like Walker, and the Evan Walker Memorial Poker Run was born.

To date the annual event has raised almost $10,000 for local schools’ special education programs.

“We make sure there is a line item in the school’s budget for the funds,” said Michael Pilson, the event organizer and Walker’s father. “If not, we go to the parent-teacher club and ask them to create a line item.” He is adamant that he doesn’t want any funds raised to go into a general fund.

As the run progresses, the learning curve lessens and Pilson has discovered that working with the parent-teacher clubs is more beneficial, as oftentimes special needs children are mainstreamed and teachers with those students can readily access monies donated from the run through the club.

Each year different schools are chosen. There are no guidelines to qualify. The monies are simply donated without cause and are always welcomed.

“One year we sent monies to a little school in Groveland and got handwritten ‘thank you’ notes from all the students,” Pilson said. “Another year I received a five-page handwritten letter from a teacher thanking me from the bottom of her heart. I didn’t realize just what a difference this was truly making in so many lives in Evan’s name.”

The fourth annual run welcomes anything on wheels and begins at the Sonora Moose Lodge, 20921 Longeway Road, Sonora, on Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. with kickstands up at 10:30 a.m. The route winds through Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, ending at the Ebbetts Pass Moose Lodge for food, live music, raffle and a live auction. The raffle, music and live auction are open to the public whether they attended the run or not.

For more information email Michael Pilson at ironhorsejourneys13@gmail.com.

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