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Event kicks off cross-country ride for hospice center (w/video)

By Elena Watts
May 31, 2014 at 12:31 a.m.
Updated June 1, 2014 at 1:01 a.m.

Randy Smith introduces Louise and Dennis Patillo to Tim LaQuay at the Ride of Life Poker Run at the Pump House Riverside Restaurant and Bar on Saturday. Smith plans to ride his motorcycle across the country to raise money for the new Hospice of South Texas inpatient center in honor of his wife who died of ALS last year.

Randy Smith, of Victoria, revved his Harley-Davidson motorcycle as he prepared to lead a group of more than 25 motorcyclists on the Ride of Life Poker Run across the Crossroads on Saturday.

The event, which began and ended at PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar, kicked off Smith's cross-country motorcycle ride.

The purpose of his journey, which begins Sunday, is to raise money for the new Hospice of South Texas inpatient center.

"This is a beautiful effort made by the family to use their pain to make the world a better place," said Mary Cox, Hospice of South Texas board member and volunteer. "It's inspiring to see them pull together and find positive ways to express their grief and respond to their loss."

Smith's ride also fulfills a promise he made to his wife before she died. He told her that he would take the coast-to-coast motorcycle trip the two had always dreamed of taking together.

On April 2, 2013, Sophia Smith lost her 28-month battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Hospice of South Texas comforted her during the last two months of her life.

"My daughter called the hospice volunteers angels sent from heaven," Randy Smith said. "They are special people who take over basic duties and offer comforting words."

Smith's goal is to raise the $2 million necessary to finish the hospice fundraiser, so he can honor his wife with a center named the Sophia Smith Center of Compassion.

"She would say that's 200,000 people at $10 each - how are we going to make that happen?" Smith said.

Sophia Smith was extremely successful in her Avon business. Her passion was empowering women by giving them independence through home businesses, her husband said.

Smith plans to stop and raise money in the 46 states with Avon sales divisions.

"She has Avon friends all over the country - it's a who's who of Avon representatives," Smith said.

An email campaign is also planned to assist with Smith's efforts, Cox said.

"It's an ambitious goal, and I told Randy to step out on faith and the money will come," Cox said. "He is a persuasive and strong public speaker."

Motorcyclists who participated in the poker run stopped in Goliad, Mission Valley, Cuero and Nursery on their route. Music by Jerry James and games entertained attendees as well as the riders when they returned. Entry fees for the ride, merchandise sales and monetary donations benefited the hospice.

Each $10 donation guarantees the donor a chance to win a Harley-Davidson motorcycle provided by LaQuay Motors in Port Lavaca.

Randy Smith has experienced his own entrepreneurial success with a local mortgage business.

"We spent 25 years building our businesses, and all of a sudden, it didn't mean anything," Smith said. "I'd give it all away for one more day with her."

A Welcome Home Gala is planned for Smith on Sept. 25 at the Spring Creek Place Event Center.

"This is old-school networking - a leap of faith - and I'm not coming home until I have the money," Smith said.



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