Annie Rose Robinson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1997 at three years old. After 27 months of chemotherapy, the cancer receded, and she has continued to remain in remission since then. In 2013, the Annie Rose Foundation was founded by the Robinson family with the goal of raising both awareness and funds for cancer research, as well as the families affected by the terrible disease. One of Team Annie Rose’s biggest fundraisers is the Start Driving, Stop Leukemia held every year in the spring. The sixth Annual Poker Run was held on May 11th this year, and it was the biggest turnout to fight cancer Team Annie Rose has had.
The first question many people have is, "What’s a Poker Run?" At check-in for the event, you receive your first card, picked from a hand of playing cards. You then drive to a second checkpoint and pick up one or more cards depending on how many checkpoints there are. By the time you reach your final destination, you should have five cards, making a full five-card poker hand — and the best hands out of all the players will win a prize. It’s basically a rally with a little luck mixed in.
My wife and I had heard amazing things about the Team Annie Rose Start Driving, Stop Leukemia event and decided we needed to jump on board. We bought a hand, and a second poker hand for my wife, and then set on a mission to find a cool car. In a field of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and endless other automotive rarities, my personal Lexus IS-F was not going to be worth a single second glance. Luckily, my friends over at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville thought it was a great cause, too, as they decided to lend us their Renault Sport 230 Renault F1 Team R26 to drive during the event. It is yellow and rare and therefore might have a chance next to the Porsche 918 I knew would be in attendance.
The day of the event, we arrived at 8:00 a.m. for check-in at Porsche of Nashville. They had a breakfast buffet and there were plenty of people meandering around looking at the wide array of cars. With 110 cars present worth close to $15 million in sum, it’s no surprise spectators came just to see. Cars that stood out included the Porsche 918 Weissach mentioned earlier, along with a Porsche Carrera GT, a Porsche 911 Flachbau Cabriolet, a Ferrari 488 Pista, a Ferrari 458 Speciale, multiple Lamborghini Aventadors, multiple McLarens including a 720S, and a street legal Porsche 911 GT3 Street Cup to top it off.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp we lined up in a single file line with the help of the Brentwood Police Department — 110 amazing cars back to back to back over a half a mile long. Incredible would not describe it. Once the cars were all staged, we were escorted by the police onto the interstate, and we were off. It was followed by close to an hour of some of the most amazing driving ever, as the cars made their way to the second checkpoint.
Contrary to the reputation of many rallies and poker runs, everyone drove respectfully and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Middle Tennessee. The Renault performed remarkably, a testament to the staff at the Lane Motor Museum and how well they maintain their vehicles. The peppy 227-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder kept up very well with cars with much more power and the yellow color definitely attracted the attention of people on the side of the road watching the parade of incredible cars. The route was planned exceptionally and signage was plentiful. It made getting to our second stop easy and enjoyable as could be.
We picked our second and third cards at the Rat Trap Racing shop in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Unfortunately, our hands were not too kind to us, but the pure sound produced by "The Original Rat Trap" Vintage Drag Race Car plenty made up for it. The same car that appeared at Amelia Island earlier this year started and revved in the driveway. Luckily, ear plugs were presented to muffle the noise produced by the V8. We left the shop and jumped on the freeway headed towards the airport where our third and final checkpoint would be.
Rolling into the final checkpoint there was again a huge crowd. Velocity Motorcars has a fantastic facility and were a very gracious host. Beautiful cars, a barbecue buffet and a silent auction table greeted us as we walked into the vehicle showroom. With donated auction items such as detailing services, wheel repair and stays at a private mountain resort, it was truly a great opportunity to make a lot of money for charity — and that’s exactly what happened. This single event raised over $50,000 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Tennessee (LLS Tennessee).
The cards did not go our way this year — but without a doubt, we’ll be back in 2020 for another shot at it. Supporting a great cause while having a blast makes for one of the best days possible. There are talks about doing events on top of the Poker Run in the coming years, and I’m very excited to see what they come up with. If you’d like to learn more about Team Annie Rose, you can visit them at TeamAnnieRose.com, TeamAnnieRose on Instagram and Team Annie Rose Foundation on Facebook. If you have the means, please consider donating to Team Annie Rose and/or LLS Tennessee here.
Again, special thanks to the Lane Motor Museum for the use of the car and Ross Robinson of Team Annie Rose for answering questions, sending some of the pictures for this article and having me during this amazing event.