Aug. 29 marked the fourth year since Brittany Hayes of Italy lost her battle with leukemia - and every year since her death, her family has sponsored the Brittany Memorial Poker Run.
This year’s event will be held Sept. 22 at Kountry Nites, off of Interstate 35 in Italy. All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society in Brittany’s memory.
Besides the poker run, the event will include live bands throughout the day, with pool and darts. First, second and third place plaques will be given for the best poker hand. Food will also be served.
The cost is $10 per person, with children younger than 16 admitted free. The first bike out will be at 11 a.m. and the last bike in will be 3 p.m.
“We want people to know that they do not have to have a bike in order to attend,” said Brittany’s aunt, Tina Duke. “There will be plenty of activities for everyone.”
Brittany was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2002 and underwent radiation treatments, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, all within a period of about 1-1/2 years.
After the transplant, Brittany was able to take a trip to Hawaii through the “Make-A-Wish Foundation.” The family remembers the souvenirs she brought home for each of them.
“I still have the T-shirt she brought me,” said Brittany’s uncle, David Duke. “I don’t plan on ever wearing it.”
The family had hoped for a miracle with the stem cell transplant, but they said it seemed her progress stopped almost immediately after she returned home from Hawaii. She passed away a short time later.
“Brittany was a very beautiful blond girl who was about to go into junior high in Italy,” Tina Duke said. “She was outspoken and very family oriented. She also loved to ride her dirt bike.”
Duke noted several losses by her family to cancer, all within a period of less than two years.
“My mom died from cancer three months before Brittany passed away in 2003 and David’s mom died from cancer in 2005,” Duke said, describing herself and her husband as “passionate” in their support and fund-raising for the American Cancer Society.
“We want to keep Brittany’s memory alive,” Duke said, noting that she, David and Brittany’s brothers, Justin, 16 and Blake, 13, all miss her and love her.
“We just don’t want to see any other family have to go through what we’ve gone through in this loss,” Duke said. “If the government doesn’t find a cure one day, we are hoping that the good Lord will give us a cure for this disease.”
About $1,600 was raised during last year’s poker run, with Duke saying they hope to increase the amount raised each year.
Signs will be posted off of the highway with directions to Kountry Nites Club.
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