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Loving Life Baskets presents baby gear to Dallas-area women who say No to abortion and Yes to life. By Eddie O’Neill.
BY Eddie O’Neill
When the idea
came to Susanna VanVickle to give gift baskets outside of local abortion
businesses to pregnant women who chose life, it was not her intent to start a
In fact, she was certain that her
first calling was as a wife and a mother. And yet, as God would have it, the
baskets in many ways have combined VanVickle’s zeal for pro-life work and her
love for her family.
Having moved with her husband and
kids to the Dallas area last fall, VanVickle was searching for some type of
pro-life ministry that would involve her and her three boys. She and her sons
began with sidewalk counseling for a couple of hours each week.
When she met a young mother named
Crystal who along with her boyfriend decided to keep their baby, VanVickle
couldn’t get the mom-to-be off her mind. She was excited about Crystal’s
decision and wanted to help support her throughout her nine months.
“The idea came to me to have
something to give mothers like Crystal to encourage and support them in their
pregnancy,” recalls VanVickle. “While lots of pregnancy centers give out
diapers and baby clothes, I wanted these moms to be excited about the pregnancy
After praying several days over the gift
brainstorm, she e-mailed several friends to see what they thought. The response
was overwhelmingly positive.
“That’s when I decided to pursue
this idea in earnest,” she says.
In January, VanVickle and friends
put together the first packages — in bags. But, as the donated items piled up,
the group traded in the bags for baskets.
The name Loving Life
Baskets seemed an appropriate fit for the fledgling organization.
“I hope these baskets say to the new
moms that there is a group of women out there who care about you,” says
VanVickle. “Our mission in giving these baskets is to love the life of each of
Anna Dunikoski can attest to the
beauty of each Loving Life basket. She and her husband have opened a spot in
their home as a storage space for the numerous items that make up each gift
“I’ve been very impressed with the
quality of the baskets,” says Dunikoski, noting that the beneficiaries receive
not just token trinkets but, rather, useful items such as blankets, skin cream,
lotions and pregnancy books in both English and Spanish.
The source of the windfall: generous
When VanVickle sent out another
e-mail to some of her friends appealing for basket items, she was surprised
once again by the response. “Before I knew it I had received $3,000 in
donations and all kinds of other goodies.”
Dunikoski says the majority of the
items come in from the Dallas area and it is usually one or two people who pick
up and bring the bulk of the items over to her house.
“It has been fun to see how one
person’s idea has so many people involved,” adds Dunikoski. “People are willing
to help if you just ask them.”
Dunikoski home has also been the site of several basket-assembly gatherings.
While kids play, moms put together each basket with a personal touch. Over the
last several months, they have averaged around 50 baskets at each gathering.
For VanVickle the most important
part of each basket is a hand-written note that stresses to the mom that
pregnancy is a special time. It also expresses that, when the going gets tough,
a group of caring moms is “there for you.”
Joanne Underwood couldn’t agree more
that the Loving Life baskets have been a blessing to her work on the front
lines of the battle for life. “When I first saw these baskets, I was so
excited,” she says. “I knew that these would be a real gift for the women.”
Three days a week Underwood can be
found outside of one of Dallas’ six abortion businesses, offering sidewalk
counseling to young pregnant women. She lines up the gift baskets along the
sidewalk and they often serve as a good icebreaker for the young girls who are
coming for appointments.
“The baskets start a conversation,”
Underwood explains. “As the girls walk by they will ask, ‘What are those?’ I
tell them that those are gifts for the mothers. If they choose to keep their
baby, I say, ‘Take this as a gift.’ The girls are so touched. They love it.”
Underwood says the baskets are a
chance to stay in touch with the young women she meets. She has kept in contact
with several moms and their new babies after handing them a Loving Life basket.
back over her eight years as a sidewalk counselor, she points to one memory as
a special favorite. A young girl drove herself to the abortion business. Not
too long after going inside, the girl came out and told Underwood that she had
decided to keep her baby. Underwood handed her a basket. The girl thanked her,
and then said: “No one has ever given me anything.”
estimates that, since starting this project, several dozen or so baskets have
been handed out throughout the Dallas area. She has no desire to incorporate
the Loving Life Basket group.
people want to do this in their community, I would encourage them to contact
their local pro-life office and tell them about the idea.”
another way: No one can do everything to save babies headed for the
abortionist’s machinery — but just about everyone can do something.
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Donations Catholic Pro Life Committee Attn: Antoinette Wilson PO Box 59852 Dallas, TX