The motorcycles roared outside the assisted living facility in Port St. Lucie. The ladies rolled in and lined up around a curve waiting for their guest of honor.
Tommy Devine, 87, had been unable to get on a motorcycle for the past 10 years.
The Wildflower Lady Riders were there to make sure he had one more ride.
Jerri Devine, 54, who is his daughter and one of the lady riders, said the women ride their motorcycles to spread joy and care to communities around Martin and St. Lucie counties.
“We have a brotherhood and sisterhood when it comes to motorcycle riding,” Devine, of Port St. Lucie, said. “And we have people on all types of bikes, so it’s not just one particular group that rides. And we love to do nice things for good people and see them smile; it’s just making sure we give people a reason to smile.”
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From September to December, the Lady Riders attend community events and ride their motorcycles to hand out care packages to a group of people or to just make someone’s day special.
For Tommy Devine, the lady riders wanted to get him on a bike after Parkinson’s disease took away his ability to ride, his daughter said.
“He started me on his bike at (age) 4, and my mother rode her own bike in the 70s, so I grew up on his motorcycle,” Jerri Devine said. “He was hit with Parkinson’s about 10 years ago, so he hasn’t been on a bike since. So, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity.”
Wildflower Lady Riders founder Jennifer Vanhohenstein, 56, of Hobe Sound, said she started the group in 2017 after seeing a need for women riders to have a sense of community and friendship.
“I originally started the Wildflowers because there was a need for single women in our community who had no one to ride with,” Vanhohenstein said. “A lot of women, it’s about empowerment maybe after a divorce, or whatever, and they get on bikes. But there was a huge need.”
The group, which has about 120 members, have each other’s backs, she said.
“It’s important because we all look out for each other. So, even if we’re not together, we have open communication, if anybody needs anything,” said Jerri Devine. “God forbid they break down. We’ve got that sisterhood where we’re going to have each other’s back no matter what, and that’s a really nice thing when you’re a woman in riding.”
Tammie Bernard, 59, of Port St. Lucie, said no ride is more important than another. The group puts equal priority on supporting each other and giving back to the communities around them.
The women build each other up while they’re together, Bernard said, and the sisterhood created a sense of belonging for her after she moved to Port St. Lucie with no immediate family around her.
“Meeting all of the girls, they become your family,” she said. “We do rally around and come up with different ideas of what we can do to give back and to help.”
Melanie Wildrick, 57, of Fort Pierce, said charity was a bonus on top of the friendship gained from the group.
“It’s really the group of women and the friendship,” Wildrick said. “The charity is just the icing on the cake. It’s just a wonderful thing to do and it just makes everybody feel good about life.”
The group began doing more community events as they saw a need to spread joy during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Some members had parents in local assisted living facilities who were shut in because of lockdowns. This prompted the group to spread some joy during hard times.
“We saw a need to go and just bring some smiles,” Vanhohenstein said.
The lady riders started doing events for assisted living facilities, kids events and other organizations. They also put together gift bags and stockings for assisted living facilities and nonprofit groups.
This year, they’re creating holiday packages for Mspanrtin Cospanst Center for Rehspanbilitspantion spannd Hespanlthcspanre, in Hobe Sound, and Tent City Helpers, a nonprofit servicing the immediate needs of the homeless in Martin County.
The lady riders put together supplies, including razors, bug-spray, clean socks, soap and shampoo for men being assisted by Tent City Helpers.
For Vanhohenstein, giving back has been a healing process.
She said she lost her son to suicide in 2020. And she makes donations with the lady riders to organizations such as Tent City Helpers, which helped her son when he was in need.
“These organizations helped my son when I couldn’t. So that’s part of my healing process,” she said. “That’s what it evolved into, is trying to help these people, inadvertently helping him, and now trying to give back to these organizations that did help him.”
And her fellow lady riders, she said, wanted to help do good things too.
“I want people to see a small group of women change the world, and I mean our world, this community,” Vanhohenstein said. “People who think they can’t change the world never will, but you gotta think inside of your world, in your community.
“We just want to send that message out, that whatever it is you do, do it in your community and let that ripple effect go and you will change the world.”