Young adults bike cross-country to promote life

By Christine Bordelon

The ninth annual “Biking for Babies” where young adults pedal bicycles across the United States to promote life by highlighting pregnancy resource centers instead of abortion took off July 12.

Nine riders on the southern track of the ride began their almost 700-mile trek north from Southeastern Louisiana University’s St. Albert the Great Chapel in Hammond and traveled over four days to St. Louis, Missouri.

Father Patrick Hirtz, from the Diocese of Memphis, who led the southern riders this year, said a heat index that rose to approximately 115 degrees and a flash flood prevented the southern from completing the whole route on bikes.

But even with a flat tire and broken arm along the way, they still met up July 15 in St. Louis with other teams that started the same day from Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

“We were in the heart of the cross in St. Louis,” Father Hirtz about the cross-shaped path the teams traveled this year. Father Hirtz, an alum of St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, is on his fourth year working with Biking for Babies and in his second year riding.

Awareness of options

Biking for Babies was founded in March 2009 by two college students – Michael Schaefer and Jimmy Becker – of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. They were “inspired to make the spirit of pro-life work more accessible to others and themselves – trying to experience, in some small way, the endurance and commitment that is tried upon young women and families in the face of an unexpected pregnancy.”

They devised the idea of biking 600 miles to raise both money and awareness of pregnancy resource centers nationwide. That first year, they raised $14,000. Other young adults soon joined their efforts, and, more than 60 college students and young adults have since made a similar trek to save babies.

The group’s vision is simple: “to bring hundreds of young people together to show America that the culture of life in our country is not only alive – but thriving and even growing.”

Father Hirtz said participating riders not only raise donations to ride in the fundraiser, they are assigned a pregnancy center to further support and establish ongoing relationships with these centers and their employees to better learn their needs.

In Louisiana, Biking for Babies supports Northlake Crisis Pregnancy Center. Other centers that are supported by Biking for Babies are located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

“Our goal is to raise $2,500 a center each year,” he said, adding that there are 43 centers Biking for Babies support across the United States.

Life-affirming stories

Throughout the ride, Father Hirtz has found it amazing to be able to talk to women in crisis about an unplanned pregnancy and let them know there is another option out there besides abortion.

This year, Father Hirtz said he learned of a woman in Missouri who changed her mind about abortion after an ultrasound at one of the pregnancy centers revealed she was carrying triplets. She decided to carry the babies to term and delivered them right before this year’s ride began.

“I see impact along the road,” Father Hirtz said. “We wear our Biking for Babies jersey on the ride, and there is interaction, especially within the smaller towns where young ladies who are pregnant didn’t realize there were places to go for them and their babies (besides abortion). We are able to Google and show women where the closest resource center is to get them to a nutritionist (during pregnancy) and a doctor to deliver their baby. They feel like they have to get an abortion due to fear. The resource centers are there to dispel those fears.”

He said the ride is a visible way to make a difference about saving lives and letting women know about the varied options they have.

“We’re tackling the abortion issue by making people aware that there are places for mothers to receive help,” Father Hirtz said. “We put the focus on mothers giving life to the baby.”

To learn more about the ride or the pregnancy resource centers, visit http://www.bikingforbabies.com.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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