Blue Knights Thrive on Charity, Brotherhood, Love of the Road

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Byline: Joanne Leis Daily Herald Correspondent

The Blue Knights motorcycle club blows the stereotypical biker right off of his Harley-Davidson.

First and foremost, the Blue Knights are the "good guys," as vice president George Kinsley puts it. Only active and retired law enforcement personnel may join the club. Members shun black leather and make it a point not to use the word "gang." The public is invited to join rides for charity.

"Our mission is to promote a positive example," said Kinsley, a dispatcher and reserve deputy for the Lake County Sheriff's Department. "We promote motorcycle safety, provide education assistance to the general public and spread interest in motorcycling." The Blue Knights is an international, nonprofit organization that raises money for charity while enjoying the open highway. Started in 1974 by two Maine police officers, the idea of riding motorcycles together captured the interest of law enforcement worldwide. There are now more than 14,000 Blue Knights in 17 countries. In the last six months, Blue Knights chapters opened in Italy and Iceland.

Illinois Chapter XII was founded in 1980 and has 29 members throughout the Chicago area. Law enforcement agencies involved include the Illinois State Police, the Lake County and Cook County sheriff's departments, and police departments in Des Plaines, Rosemont, Barrington Hills, Streamwood and Chicago. The Blue Knights can be identified by their gray leather, denim or colorful riding vests emblazoned with the Blue Knights logo. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, usually at the Cuneo Museum in Vernon Hills. During the riding season, however, members take the opportunity to combine a ride with the meeting.

"When the weather is nice we ride out to a restaurant," Kinsley said. "Every two months we come back to Cuneo. The location of meetings is listed on the Web site."

Meetings usually include planning for the club's major charity event. Through the annual "Poker Run" ride, the Illinois XII Blue Knights have contributed $1,500 to $2,500 a year to the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the past five years. …