Families gathered for an early Mass in Palmetto Bay on Sunday, then skipped a traditional brunch, kicked up the stands of their motorcycles, and roared up and down South Florida streets.
Leading the charge was Archbishop Thomas Wenski, wearing jeans and leather jacket, riding his black Harley Davidson Street Glide during the annual poker run hosted by the Archdiocese of Miami.
Wenski, who has been riding motorcycles for more than 10 years and even has an image of his beloved Harley on his cellphone cover, started hosting the poker run to raise money for the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami. This year, all proceeds are going to St. Luke’s Center, which helps people overcome drug and alcohol addiction.
“This is the third time we do this, and we got a few more riders,” Wenski said on a snack stop in Doral. “This is an important event to highlight the good work of these Catholic charities.”
Joining Wenski was Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz in his leather vest riding his new black Harley Davidson Road Glide. This was his first time riding on the archbishop’s poker run.
“It’s a huge pleasure riding,” said Diaz, who had been into motocross since he was a kid. “This is a great group of people.”
The event started with an 8 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard Catholic Church, 7500 SW 152nd St. in Southwest Miami-Dade. Then bikers made stops in Harris Park in Homestead, El Arepazo 2 in Doral, and Friction Zone Motorsports in Hialeah. At each stop, the contestants picked up a card until they completed a poker hand.
The poker run ended with a barbecue at Peterson’s Harley Davidson in Miami Gardens, where the winning poker hand was determined. The first-place prize is a $500 gift card to Peterson’s Harley Davidson store, and second-place prize is a $250 gift card to Friction Zone Motorsports.
Each year, the event attracts dozens of families and friends from congregations across South Florida.
David Campos, from Our Lady of the Lakes church in Miami Lakes, took a ride with his brother-in-law, Jorge Gutierrez, from Blessed John XXIII Roman Catholic Church in Miramar. Together, they took their 10-year-old sons, Joshua Campos and Gabriel Gutierrez, along for the ride.
Mark Kerney and his wife, Frances, from Weston, woke up at 6 a.m. to make it on time to Mass in Palmetto Bay and then joined the poker run. The couple belong to St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church and have participated in the event since it started three years ago.
“I think the archbishop is doing a good thing by getting people together,” Mark Kerney said.