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Play for Peru: Generosity, Love and Miracles

by Carolyn Canouse

On Friday September 24th more than 30 people come out to Tannery Row Ale House to play Texas Hold Em to benefit Make a Miracle. This fundraiser was planned by MAM volunteer Sarah Sinclair, a regular poker player at this venue. Everyone was guaranteed a prize (see above), with the winner receiving a weekend at Harrah's Casino in Cherokee NC and $1,000 cash. She has been promoting Make a Miracle every chance she gets, and in this one night raised over $12,000!

The night started with Sarah's friend Scott registering first. He not only gave a generous donation to play (above and beyond what was required), he took the raffle tickets and rolled them down the floor as far as they could go and bought that amount, totaling more than $300. This set the tone for generosity for the entire evening. Scott actually had somewhere else to be that night, so he went all-in on the first hand so he could leave and the lucky hand winner got all his chips.

Next came Sarah's wife Terri, who went all-in 3 times in the first 20 minutes just so she could rebuy and give more for Peru. On top of that, she and Sarah donated the cash prize personally. Their generosity and heart for Peru is unbelievable.

After the first break, I thanked everyone for the support, and explained how San Juan de Lurigancho stole my heart 10 years ago. I encouraged them to join us in our outreach because the need down there is off the charts. The average monthly income per family is $192/month; about as much as they were spending that evening at the poker tournament. I shared that we are making a difference, breaking the cycle of poverty through education. Then I asked Leslie Richardson, one of our volunteers, to pick the winning 50/50 raffle ticket. There was $1,740 in the fishbowl; half for Make a Miracle, and half for the winner. The winner: my husband and co-founder Jack, who donated all his winnings back to Peru! Leslie said, "I can't believe he won this year because you won the last time and donated it back too. There were a lot of tickets in there! I guess this is a Godwink." I couldn't agree more. Jack pointed out "The winning ticket was the last one I bought. I got more than I normally would ($200) because I saw Scott buying so many." Generosity is completely contagious.

One of my favorite moments was meeting Evan, a young guy who was a friend of a friend who heard about the tournament. He came in just a few minutes before the start, and registered himself as well as his friend Dell who was running late. I made a point to give them both the extra 5000 in chips for being on time. During the break Evan was admiring one of the prizes: an Atlanta United neon sign. He told us a few stories: he was at the first game the team ever played, his dad was hit in the face by a ball one game (ouch!), he had an Atlanta United tattoo on his back. I saw Evan buying in to the tournament again because he went out, and he mentioned again that he really wanted to win that sign. Well no one else seemed interested in it so I asked the volunteers to put it behind the counter so no one picked it before Evan. A few minutes later Dell came over and to claim the sign and saw it was gone! He said, "Oh man, I went out just to get that sign for my friend!" We told him our secret and he laughed along with us and picked another prize for himself. Well Evan made it until the top 5 and came over to pick his prize but the sign was not there. He was pretty disappointed, but good-naturedly chose the "Go Outdoors" gift basket worth over $300. When we pulled the sign out to surprise him, at first he was speechless, and then he started shuffling back and forth, fighting tears. He said "I can't believe y'all did that for me!" We hugged and he talked about the possibility of the bank he works for supporting our cause. We were all in tears. Someone noted, we are all connected. We are all in this together.

The top winners were all thrilled with their prizes. One gentleman asked if we had any wine bottle prizes left for when his wife goes out, and I said no, but if she comes in top 5 there is a great Charcuterie Board food and wine gift basket worth $300. Sure enough, she won it and was thrilled.

The best story of the night was about my good friend and MAM board member Chuck. He came out to watch but said he didn't want to play. Another player, George, had paid his own entry online and couldn't make it so his wife Judy insisted that Chuck play for George. Chuck faced the two biggest chip stacks of the night and hung in there to eventually win the entire tournament! He tried to give Judy the prize money & weekend in Cherokee for George since it was his entry, but she wouldn't accept it. He and his partner Dennis looked at each other and said, "Well then, the $1,000 is going to Make a Miracle!" This was the perfect end to a perfect night full of generosity, love and yes, miracles.

ps. a big thank you to our table sponsors: Cigma Blinds, Keller Williams North Georgia Group and Mr Rogers Cleaning.

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