If babies brought to full term in crisis pregnancies were given the same care, concern and effort that pro-lifers give to anti-abortion marches, protests and prayer vigils, the pro-life movement would find much more receptive ears to its message.
That’s the sentiment of Father Walter Carreiro, pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Cambridge, Mass., and he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk on the matter. Literally. He’s a strong supporter of the St. Gerard Walkathon, a grassroots initiative to raise money for pregnant girls and women in need.
“So much is done to support the pro-life movement, as it should be,” adds the priest. “Not much seems to be done to support those women who go full term and often don’t have the resources to provide for their babies.”
The St. Gerard Walkathon was founded by Kathleen Laplante, a mother of two from Hudson, Mass., in 2004. Since then the annual June outing has raised upwards of $13,000 for its worthwhile cause.
It’s named after St. Gerard Majella, patron of expectant mothers, unborn babies and the pro-life movement.
Laplante tells the Register the project formed when she had a yearning to help pregnant girls and women in need, and tried various volunteer activities in her area. None of them satisfied her passion. One day, while out on her daily walk, she got an idea: Why not combine this healthy and spiritual practice with her desire to help pregnant women in need of material assistance?
She considered asking others to sponsor her to walk across the state. Then it occurred to her that one person can only raise so much.
“I talked to a few people, consulted my pastor and spiritual director, advertised a little, and told as many people as I could,” Laplante recalls. “Less than three months later, with my mother and aunt running the registration table, I held the first walk. There were about 10 people, total. We raised $1,049.”
Laplante’s idea gained momentum, capturing the hearts of friends and family, especially her sons Alden and Kegan. Seeing their enthusiastic participation in the event has been, she says, her greatest reward.
“They’ve gone from a resistant ‘Why do we have to do this?’ to an anticipatory ‘When’s the next walkathon?’” she says. “They look forward to seeing repeat walkers each year, and they have an anchored sense of commitment, of helping others in need, of respecting life, and of believing that they themselves can make a difference.”
Laplante has spread the word about the St. Gerard Walkathon mostly through e-mail, blogs, message boards, chat rooms, flyers and personal contacts.
“The response has been quite good,” she says, “especially given the local aspect of the walkathon, the limited manpower, and the fact that helping pregnant girls and women in need is a disquieting cause for many people.”
Life: The Only Choice
Volunteer organizer (and walker) Shaun Ratcliffe found out about the St. Gerard Walkathon when he spotted a flyer at his local food pantry. He picked up a copy, took it home and gave Kathleen a call. He offered to help in any way he could and ended up recruiting another two walkers from his young-adult group. That was during the first year of the walk and he’s still going strong.
“Protecting life to me means more than marching in protests and holding vigils outside of abortion mills,” he says. “It means also letting women know they have options available to them that will provide for them and for their child. If more folks saw that there were resources out there that would ensure the safety, security and good future of their child and themselves, I believe we could effectively reduce and eliminate the perceived need for abortion.”
Proceeds from the event go to Birthright of Hudson-Marlborough, Mass., and Spring House, in Berlin, Mass. Birthright is an interdenominational foundation that provides support services to pregnant girls and women such as counseling, maternity and baby clothes and supplies, legal advice and resource referrals.
Spring House is a residential shelter for pregnant mothers that provides education and a support system designed to prepare them physically, emotionally and financially for the birth of their children.
“I chose Birthright and Spring House as recipients because their gentle and loving approaches are very effective with expectant mothers in crisis,” says Laplante. “Both organizations are life-affirming and neither promotes abortion as an option.”
Laplante’s vision for the walkthon is to go national, with walks rolling out simultaneously across the country — and, with each step, material and emotional support for women allowing their babies to be born.
“Locally, I’m committed to running the walkathon until 2013. That will be 10 years and then I’ll reassess things,” says Laplante. “I hope to weave in more help from volunteers and generate more proceeds. I’d be thrilled to raise $10,000 in one year alone.”
Marge Fenelon writes from
St. Gerard Walkathon
Phone: (978) 568-9780