Bikers turn out to help Southington teen with rare bone disease

SOUTHINGTON — The Ride for Lexi poker run brought together hundreds of motorcyclists and friends of a 15-year-old Southington girl living with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease.

“It raises awareness for children like Lexi,” said Louis Tartaglia, founder of Lexi’s Journey Inc., a nonprofit started to assist Alexis Charbonneau, better known as Lexi, and her family. Osteogenesis imperfecta causes bones to fracture and break easily. Charbonneau has suffered over 70 fractures since birth.

“She’s an inspiration for a lot of people,” Tartaglia said. Nearly 150 motorcycles filled the parking lot of Cadillac Ranch, which was the launch and return point for the poker run. Riders stopped at four bars, picking up a poker card at each. The rider with the best hand won a prize. The event has been held each year since Lexi was born.

“I think people come to see how big she’s got and how far she’s come,” said Brittany Misulch, who lives down the street from Charbonneau and her family. Misulch and her mother have volunteered to help with the ride every year. “(Lexi’s) been my best friend (since) when she was born.”

“It’s a way to show that people still come together for something that’s important,” said Kelly Misulch, Brittany’s mother.

Jon Scott of Southington attended with his 6-year-old son, Liam.

“It’s good to show him that all the bikes get together for good causes,” Scott said.

Liam Scott was checking out a Harley-Davidson while his dad spoke. He’s got a mountain bike and someday wants his own motorcycle.

“It’s a brotherhood, a sisterhood,” said Jerry Zayas, who came to the ride with his wife for the first time this year. He is helping organize the Fall Foliage Poker Run for the American Cancer Society on Oct. 15.

“Any reason to ride, any reason to help,” Zayas said.

Local businesses and franchises pitched in as well. The bars opened early to receive the riders. Outback Steakhouse donated food, a Dunkin’ Donuts shop provided coffee, and Nobby Beverage provided soft drinks.

When the ride was first started, the proceeds were used help pay for the expenses related to Lexi’s condition, but as it grew Lexi’s Journey began donating some of the money to other charities, such as Wounded Warriors, the Shriners and relief efforts for the recent hurricanes. Charbonneau volunteered at Dream Ride one year, a motorcycle ride through Connecticut in support of the Special Olympics.

“Lexi has a heart of gold,” said her mother, Deborah Zinzalet.

As the bikers left Cadillac Ranch, Charbonneau saw them off as they turned onto the road. She said that seeing so many bikers there was “crazy.”

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