John Howard joined the American Legion Riders in June of 2018, but it didn’t take long for him to discover a cause to ride for. On May 1, 2018, 42-year-old Christi Kay Henderson died after a 12-year long battle with lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. On Saturday, Sept. 21, the first annual Lupus Ride will take place in Owensboro in her honor.
“I have a couple dear friends that have lupus,” Howard said. “It has touched my life and my friends personally.”
The Lupus Ride is open to the public, and not exclusively to motorcycle riders. Registration will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with bikes scheduled to leave the American Legion at 11 a.m. Organized in a poker run format, participants will visit three to four establishments in Owensboro to draw cards before returning to the Legion to draw the final card to complete their hand. Local band Last Call will then perform at the Legion from 2-5 p.m.
Christi found joy in riding motorcycles with her husband Todd and watching him perform with the band Last Call. So Howard approached his longtime friend, and Christi’s widower, asking if the event could be held in Christi’s honor and if Todd would be willing to perform that afternoon.
“He’s the lead singer of the band — that’s why it’s so fitting for him to help with the benefit using his talents,” Howard said.
According to Howard, the funds raised will go to benefit the organization Lupus Chicks of America.
“I’m hoping we can at least raise $500,” Howard said. “With this being the first event like this, if we go over it, I’ll be blessed.”
Todd was overwhelmed by Howard’s generosity and his desire to honor Christi while bringing awareness to a great cause.
“For him to do this out of the goodness of his heart is just amazing,” Todd said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know what lupus is — it’s a horrible disease that’s not recognized.”
Recently, Todd made contact with a member of the Lupus Chicks organization who informed him of the enduring impact the fundraising ride could have on young ladies living with lupus.
“Once a year, they find a female student in college and pick someone to give a scholarship to,” Todd said. “So, if we raise enough money Saturday, the next scholarship they give out will be named after my wife Christi. With the way this town supports causes, we could possibly give three $500 scholarships to ladies going to school to better themselves while fighting this.”
Giving back to the Owensboro community is the reason Howard said he joined the Legion Riders in the first place.
“I ride motorcycles and got in with the American Legion Riders group because of the support factor,” Howard said. “We try to do things for the community and this is something I wanted to do to give back to her family and friends.”