Today’s ABATE poker run to benefit cancer patient Jamie Rushing

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Just weeks after an auction and gospel concert that raised more than $1,100 for Vidalia cancer patient Jamie Rushing, his friends and relatives are gearing up for another big benefit.

This time, they are working with the Miss-Lou chapter of motorcycle organization ABATE to sponsor a poker run. The event will begin at noon today at the Steel Horse Saloon at 266 Highland Blvd., although the first bikes will not leave that location until about 1 p.m.

In a poker run, participants show up to ride to several different locations, picking up a card at each one. At the end of the ride, they see what sort of poker hands they have. In most runs, prizes are given for the best and worst hands.

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And contrary to popular belief, car and truck drivers are invited to participate in addition to motorcycle enthusiasts.

With grilled chicken plates served up hot, plenty of raffle and auction items to sell and music from live deejays, the day promises to be fun, said Margie Burlison, one of several people organizing today’s benefit. But organizers never forget the real reason they are doing the benefit, longtime friend Jamie Rushing, whom Burlison said &uot;is just like a son to me.&uot;

Burlison, whose husband died of cancer 10 years ago, is a veteran of benefits by now. She helped coordinate a similar benefit in 2001 for Edward &uot;Skeeter&uot; Wilson, who was injured in April of that year in a fall at International Paper’s Natchez mill.

But Burlison gives much of the credit to fellow organizers like Nancy Smith, Rushing’s aunt.

When it comes to the benefit, &uot;I do whatever she (Burlison) tells me to do,&uot; Smith said.

So far, that has included making telephone and in-person calls to get donations for the auction, raffle and luncheon and selling raffle tickets for items ranging from Bibles to binoculars.

&uot;He (Rushing) is a really close nephew to me,&uot; Smith said. &uot;Plus, he worked offshore, and I knew he couldn’t continue that, having cancer &045; so I knew they (Rushing and his family) would need some help.&uot;

Several other people have sold books of raffle tickets at their workplaces. &uot;We even have some as far away as Grand Gulf,&uot; Burlison said, referring to the nuclear power plant north of Port Gibson.

What has inspired Burlison is the way people have united to help Rushing and his family. &uot;We’ve really come together as a community,&uot; she said.