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Blues Hit Jackpot with Casino Night

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Blues goaltender Chris Mason works at the craps table during the second annual Blues Casino Night on Jan. 27, 2009 (Photo by Mark Buckner).
Chris Mason isn’t much of a gambler, but Tuesday night was a special occasion.

For the second straight year, the Blues held a Casino Night at Scottrade Center to raise money for the St. Louis Blues 14 Fund and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Specialty Hospital. Named “Cheeseburgers & A Pair O’Dice,” the event combined the blackjack, roulette and craps tables of Vegas with the palm trees, surfboards and seashells of the beach.

Throw in an open bar with a speed boat as its centerpiece and you’ve got a recipe for a great time.

“No poker face here. I’m not a gambler at all,” Mason said Tuesday night as the event was coming to a close. “(But) this is a great idea. Everyone’s having fun, everyone’s smiling and laughing and it’s benefiting the 14 Fund, which is doing a great job with Ranken Jordan. It’s a fun way to make money for a good cause.”

More than 200 people braved bad weather conditions to attend the event, which through ticket sales, silent and live auctions raised more than $40,000 for cancer research and health and wellness for children.

Blues players and coaches acted as dealers at the event, and for Blues fan Bryan Laird, that was reason enough to make the trip from San Antonio, TX.

“We went last year, had a great time, so we came again and we’re having a great time again,” said Laird, who along with his wife Jeanelle Kalka, made a one-day trip to St. Louis just for the event. Laird lived in St. Louis until he was 13, when his parents moved to Texas in 1977. He remains a loyal Blues fan and still tries to attend a few Blues games each season.

“We flew up today, we’ll fly back tomorrow,” he said.

 Casino Night
Cheeseburgers & A Pair O' Dice raised more than $40,000 to benefit the Blues' 14 Fund and Ranken Jordan Hospital.

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St. Louis Blues 14 Fund
Ranken Jordan Hospital
The 14 Fund was originally established by players and alumni more than 11 years ago when former player Doug Wickenheiser was in the midst of a battle with lung and brain cancer. Wickenheiser, who scored perhaps the most memorable goal in franchise history, was 37 years old when he passed away in 1999. Since then, the 14 Fund has continued to raise money to support cancer research with children.

“He would be so happy,” said Dianne Wickenheiser, Doug’s wife. “When he was sick and struggling, he didn’t want to see anyone else struggle, especially children. It all started with a focus for kids with cancer. But since, the 14 Fund has grown, touched so many different causes. I think the emphasis on children was something that was really close to his heart.”

Bruce Affleck, the team’s Executive Director of Broadcasting and a former player himself, serves as a member of the Blues 14 Fund’s Board of Trustees and ranks the annual Casino Night as one of the best charity events the team organizes.

“It really doesn’t get much better than this,” Affleck said. “The event itself has a lot of merit to it. People enjoy it and to get a chance to mingle with the players, it’s a great deal.”

For Mason and the rest of the team, helping out with the event was a no-brainer.

“My parents always told me that when I have an opportunity to help, to do it,” Mason said. “Even if it’s a small thing, it helps people. It’s a great thing that they’re doing.”

Talk about hitting the jackpot.
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