Teenager organizes poker run to feed the hungry

Proceeds from motorcycle ride benefit Placer Food Bank
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Jake Coplen doesn’t have his motorcycle license. But that minor technicality didn’t stop the 16-year-old motorcycle enthusiast from spending the past several weeks of his summer vacation organizing a motorcycle poker run. In this event, participants stop at checkpoints along a course to collect playing cards and the person with the best poker hand at the end wins a prize. This isn’t just any poker run. Jake’s event on Saturday, July 31, is a fundraiser to feed the hungry. Proceeds benefit the Placer Food Bank. “I was looking for an idea to give back to the community,” Jake said. “I wanted it to be interesting. This mixes biking and giving back to the community.” Five years ago, the local food-assistance agency neared extinction, but now the Placer Food Bank serves more people than ever before due to the current economic crisis. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the food bank distributed nearly 4.2 million pounds of food and served 411,937 men, women and children in the area. This year, the Placer Food Bank expects to distribute more than 6 million pounds of food, said Executive Director Dave Martinez. The food bank provides food to 55 local charitable organizations and agencies in Placer, Nevada and El Dorado counties. “I chose (Placer Food Bank) because I felt like feeding the hungry is a good way to go, especially now with the economy and so many people needing help,” Jake said. The local agency relies heavily on the assistance of volunteers and fundraising. In 2008-09, some 85 volunteers donated more than 4,000 hours of their time, which equates to paying the salary of two full-time employees. Additionally, the majority of the food bank’s annual revenue of about $1 million comes from fundraising efforts. “(This event) is monumental,” Martinez said. “It’s high visibility and a way for an agency to show it’s providing a solution to the community in hard economic times. And to think it’s a high school student who on his own decided to do this — it’s pretty amazing to think about our younger generation helping serve our community.” Martinez, who “loves poker runs,” said this is the first event of its kind to benefit the local food bank. He hopes to organize similar fundraising events in the future. The Poker Run to Feed the Hungry costs single motorcycle riders $25 and two riders pay $35. The registration fee includes a complimentary continental breakfast and post-ride barbecue. Jake said he expects at least 40 participants, which could total around $1,000 in registration fees. “The more, the better,” he said. Event organizers will also collect canned foods and monetary donations during the ride. Jake had the perfect business to sponsor the event — his dad Sean Coplen’s Roseville Yamaha shop. The 65-mile ride begins at Roseville Yamaha and weaves around the Sierra Nevada foothills, through Loomis, Auburn, Grass Valley, Penryn, Newcastle and Rocklin, before returning to the dealership for a barbecue. Participants receive one playing card at the beginning of the ride, three at a midway checkpoint at the Auburn Alehouse Brewery and Restaurant, and another card once they return. The three riders with the best poker hands win Roseville Yamaha gift cards. Jake designed the course with the help of his mom, dad, brother, Google maps and four car trips around the area. His route avoids difficult turns and he made sure the course isn’t too confusing so participants can self-map. His dad isn’t surprised his son decided to spend his summer organizing an event to give back to the community. He’s a good kid and “a great student too,” Sean Coplen said, noting that the Granite Bay High School student — who will be a senior this year — has a 4.3 grade-point average. Jake has one week left to drum up as many more participants as he can. He’s already excited about the big event. “(I’m looking forward to it) all coming together for a charity’s benefit and people having a nice ride on their motorcycles,” he said. Even if he can’t ride it himself. Sena Christian can be reached at ---------- What: Poker Run to Feed the Hungry When: 10 a.m. Saturday, July 31 Where: 65-mile course begins at Roseville Yamaha, 2014 Taylor Road in Roseville Cost: Registration fee is $25 per rider, $35 for two riders (includes continental breakfast and post-ride barbeque). Download a registration form at or complete a form beginning at 9 a.m. the day of the ride. The event is open to riders of all levels and all motorcycle brands are welcome. Proceeds: Benefit the Placer Food Bank Info: Contact Marianna Silchuk or Sean Coplen at (916) 784-2444. To learn more about the Placer Food Bank, visit ---------- Food insecurity in the United States: In 2008: 49.1 million — 16.4 percent — Americans lived in food-insecure households 16.7 million — 22.5 percent — children lived in food-insecure households 2.3 million — 8.1 percent — seniors lived in food-insecure households Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 Food Security Survey