Heidi Zemach for SCN-
Downtown Seward and vehicles traveling the Seward Highway Saturday June 7th saw a large contingent of Harley Davidson riders participating in the First Annual “Ride for Respect Poker Run,” a fundraising event for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, sponsored by Seaview Community Services’ Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault program. A poker run is a ride with several checkpoints along the way. At each one you pick up a card, and at the end of the ride, the person with the best poker hand wins a prize.
The riders left the House of Harley in Anchorage at noon, stopping along the route Essential One at Bird Creek, Hope Junction, Trail Lake Lodge in Moose Pass, and Breeze Inn Hotel, in Seward, most of them their main sponsors. It was raining, so they got pretty wet. They gathered for dinner at the Breeze Inn, and had a 50/50 raffle and games with many businesses donating some generous prizes. The entertainment was provided by Black Water Railroad, a local band.
“It was a pretty fun day, I think everybody had a good time,” said Dawn McDevitt, Seaview’s DVSA program coordinator, and the first annual poker run event organizer. McDevitt is an avid Harley Davidson rider, along with her husband Mitch. She has organized similar runs in the Lower 48. She was pleased with the poker run turnout. There were 70 riders, each contributing $30-$40 for the cause, and even more people dropped by for the dinner and entertainment, she said. Businesses were very generous with the prizes that they offered. She promises another poker run next year.
The poker run, and the Kids Carnival that took place April 5th at the Alaska Railroad cruise ship terminal were both fundraisers to provide shelter nights in undisclosed locations for those in immediate danger of domestic violence or sexual assault. Seward has no safe shelter, and relies on victims either leaving the community for places that do have shelter, such as Kenai, or Anchorage, or staying for up to 3-4 nights in local rooms that are available, with funding provided through the SeaView DVSA program. Seward’s DVSA is one of only two shelterless programs out of the 18 participating member programs in Alaska, and is the only program staffed and run by only one person, McDevitt said.Last year there were 204 shelter nights requested by victims that could not be provided due either to lack of funding, or to the fact that there were no locations available in Seward. If they should need longer shelter nights, or if money is not available, the program can transport victims to the nearest shelter. But doing this can be very difficult if the victim has a job in Seward, lacks transportation, has children in school, or if their support systems are here.