Annual Hillbilly Poker Run Set for September 28

Garry "Hillbillly" Thurman" passed away after a four-year battle with cancer. Photo: Leanne Oakes.

Martinsville, VA- A well-known cancer fundraiser in the Southside that includes upwards of 250 motorcycles and classic cars has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 28.

When motorcycle enthusiast Garry "Hillybilly" Thurman found out that he had cancer in 2004, his fellow co-workers at Goodyear organized a poker run to help raise awareness to his illness.

Garry lost his battle with cancer in 2007. Since then, the relatively small poker run bearing his nickname "Hillbilly" has taken on a life of its own, drawing hundreds of bikers from around the area who come out to honor Garry, and to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Helping to keep the ride going strong is Garry's widow, Donna Thurman.

"Over the past nine years we've raised a little over $122,000," Thurman said.

Each fall, Thurman, along with her friends and family, organize food, t-shirts, and flyers to help get the word out about the event. The growing event is something Donna says she's amazed by every year.

"It's always an emotional day," Thurman said, talking about the day of the ride itself, "But it's a way to keep his [Garry's] memory alive. The amount of money raised to help people with cancer is a good thing. It's just overwhelming to see everyone come out."

This year, the poker run will mark its tenth run. People that help out and take part in the event wear t-shirts that say "riding for a cure".

Riders will meet at Collinsville Printing Supply off of Beaver Creek Road in Martinsville, where registration starts at 9 a.m. The bikers - hundreds of them - will take off around 10:30 a.m.

The motorcycles will start on Route 890, and then make their way onto 619 in Franklin County, Thurman said, before stopping at Mitchell's Store. From there, the bikes travel to Route 40 in Franklin County, stopping again at the Glade Hill Minute Market. From Glade Hill, participants will ride into Pittsylvania County, stopping at Dickie's off of Route 57 in Callands before returning for their final stop at Donna's home on Snow Creek Road in Franklin Co. for a barbeque meal.

Police will escort the large group through heavily traveled areas. Community rescue personnel will help with traffic control along the rest of the route.

The event was originally slated for Saturday, but with rain in the forecast, Donna and her crew decided on September 28 in hopes of a larger crowd.

As of this writing, the weather on September 28 looks nice, based on longer-range computer models.

In addition to the American Cancer Society, money raised from the fundraiser will also go to the Carilion Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic, Franklin County Planned Parenthood, then Franklin County Humane Society, and the Free Clinic of Franklin County.

If you would like to become a part of the poker run, or would simply like more information, you can call 540-576-2685, or click here.