LOS ANGELES — When thousands gather inside Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 18, it won’t be to watch batters rounding the bases. Instead, thousands of youth and their families will be teaming up to march around the stadium and enjoy concerts, carnival games and an impressive lineup of speakers — all in support of life.
Go2Bat4Life has been described as an enormous open-air festival for people of all faiths aimed at strengthening their pro-life convictions. Think of it as a party with a purpose.
Between 1 and 4:30pm on Nov. 18, beginning with an energetic one-mile walk around the perimeter of the stadium, pro-lifers will be encouraged in their efforts by religious leaders and celebrities, including Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, actors Eduardo Verastegui (from Bella) and Mauricio Kuri (from For Greater Glory), Live Action founder Lila Rose and youth speaker Justin Fatica. Christian singer Lincoln Brewster and the popular Christian reggae band Christafari will perform. Former Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda will kick off the event.
Marion Jones, the daughter of pro-life advocate Jason Jones, will be speaking about I Am Whole Life, the pro-life nonprofit that she directs. She also started the Until Abortion Ends initiative, which advocates prayer and fasting as a means of ending abortion.
"People are encouraged to give up something until abortion ends," explained Jones. "Some have given up meat or their iPod, coffee, potato chips, soda or video games and have vowed to do so until abortion comes to an end. It’s like an extended Lent."
"This event is unprecedented, unparalleled and unplugged," said Baptist minister Walter Hoye, president and founder of Issues 4 Life and event emcee. "I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve never seen anything like this — the way it’s reaching out to the youth with fun, festivities and music."
"It’s shocking to see how few people know about abortion or the pro-life cause on campus," said Will Boles, a freshman pre-med student at UCLA who belongs to a pro-life student club there. "This event will reach out to high school and college students to show them that it can be both cool and fun to be pro-life."
The event is an outgrowth of the pro-life work done by LIFEsocal (Life Is for Everyone), a group of high school and college students and their parents who first organized in 2009.
Boles was a member of that group while a student at St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, Calif.
"We went to pray outside an abortion business every week," said Boles. "We also did fundraising and volunteer work at a local pregnancy-help center."
The group began, as many do, by participating in local fundraisers and praying outside of abortion businesses. They held car washes for life to raise money for a local pregnancy center, participated in 40 Days for Life as a prayerful, peaceful presence outside a local Planned Parenthood business, participated in San Francisco’s Walk for Life West Coast and other pro-life activities.
As time went on, though, the group decided to host events that were larger in scope.
"The group suggested hosting a major pro-life event in Southern California," explained Carol Golbranson, executive director of LIFEsocal and originator of Go2Bat4Life, "so a group of 12 volunteer moms and 83 children got to work brainstorming."
The result was the March 27, 2011, Walk4Life at the Rose Bowl. More than 7,000 attendees walked a three-mile perimeter around the Rose Bowl. Archbishop Gomez, the Los Angeles Department of Catholic Schools, Right to Life of Southern California, Carmelite Sisters, Birth Choice Health Clinics and more than 200 Knights of Columbus participated.
After photographing the Walk4Life event, professional photographer and former youth minister Neil Vance was inspired to get involved.
"I was so amazed by the energy and enthusiasm and the excellent job the volunteers did in pulling off the solidarity walk," said Vance. "It was great for regular people to see that pro-life events can be fun."
"Walk4Life was a success beyond our wildest dreams, and it inspired us to dream bigger," said Golbranson. "Everyone wanted more."
In March 2012, the group hosted the Balloon Rosary 4 Life at the St. Francis High School football stadium in La Canada, Calif.
"It was a friendly competition where between 12 and 15 teams competed, making large rosaries out of balloons," explained Libby Harrahill, a sophomore at Glendale Community College who served as emcee for the event. "When they were done making 15 different rosaries, we hung them around the railing of the stadium."
Having hosted their events at two athletic stadiums, the group set its sights on a bigger venue: Dodger Stadium.
"It’s an iconic venue, centrally located in Los Angeles and easily accessible from Orange County," said Golbranson. "It is a great place for a pro-life party."
Golbranson said that the goal of Go2Bat4Life is to "normalize" the face of the pro-life movement and introduce young people to the many different types of pro-life activism.
"There isn’t just one way to be pro-life. Our goal is for all in attendance to believe in life, stand up for life and commit to doing something positive for life," said Golbranson. "Dozens of great pro-life groups will be available to share their ministries, and we hope everyone will be motivated to join pro-life work in their own way."
The students involved agree.
"Young people are trending towards life because they realize how precious life is," said Boles. "People are naturally attracted to the truth."
Already, groups from schools and churches across Southern California have committed to attending the event. They include groups from North Coast Calvary Church in Carlsbad, Junipero Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Country Church in Chula Vista, Los Angeles’ Centro Sagrada Familia Churches and Brookins Community A.M.E. Church, as well as a group attending from the University of Notre Dame.
Vance said that Go2Bat4Life will be similar to the Rose Bowl Walk4Life, but much larger.
"The event is taking place on the Dodgers’ outfield, with the stage set on second base," said Vance. "Being in the stadium will be a highlight."
He also said that the event will be historic.
"We’re hoping to have all the attendees, as well as those who can’t be there in person, take a pledge and text ‘IAm4Life’ to our text line," said Vance. "The pledge will be historic. Never before in the history of Los Angeles has a group come together to say, ‘For the rest of my life, I will commit all of my resources to ending abortion.’"
Hoye said the event is a unique way to engage the young.
"Many of us have been fighting the pro-life battle for a very long time," said Hoye. "The young generation gets it. We’re reaching out to young people in a language they can understand. This is a way to engage a younger generation for the pro-life movement."
Tim Drake is the
Register’s senior writer.