Ten young men and women donned jerseys emblazoned with “Biking for Babies” and pedaled 1,150 miles to share a life-affirming message.
Starting May 21 in New Orleans, Biking for Babies’ co-founders, Jimmy Becker and Mike Schaefer, led the ride, which averaged 130 miles a day, through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois. They were scheduled to finish in Chicago on May 29.
Biking for Babies (BikingforBabies.com) hopes to raise $40,000 for eight pro-life centers. Not bad for something that began as a one-time shorter ride on Becker and Schaefer’s 2009 spring break at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For that 636-mile ride in Illinois, the pair raised nearly $15,000 for Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Waterloo, Ill., and Students for Life of Illinois.
They never anticipated the ride to continue, but support was so great that Becker now says, “We thought and prayed about it, and if God was going to continue to bless the work, we would continue to do the best we can. This would be our way to help in transforming the culture.”
In 2010, they raised more than $15,000. Last year, with a couple of more riders and an expanded 860-mile route from Covington, La., to Champaign, Ill., they raised more than $21,000.
With Biking for Babies on a roll, they upped the goal. “With people becoming more cognizant of what we’re doing, riding the distance and spreading the word, we felt it possible to increase our goal and raise more for pro-life charities,” Schaefer says.
Among this year’s recipients will be the John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas, a new center that aims to build a culture of life through the Catholic faith, pro-life medical care and chastity education.
John Paul II Life Center co-founder Tim Von Dohlen says Biking for Babies is “a wonderful opportunity to awaken the sleeping people across the United States about what’s going on across the country concerning the growing disrespect for life.”
The expansion is exciting for the co-founders. “As we’ve gotten the word out, people have jumped on to get involved,” says Becker, who just finished his third year as a Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary at the University of Texas in Austin. Schaefer served as associate director of the Newman Center at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and will begin graduate school this fall.
One rider is Jeremy Winter, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala. When he was a student at Auburn University, he was a runner and was involved with pro-life efforts, including attending the national March for Life. “I felt this was perfect for me,” Winter says. “It’s a way I could use my strength in a small yet significant way to help the pro-life cause.”
Becker emphasizes, “This is an opportunity for catechesis and evangelization; it’s more than just a fundraiser.” As part of their witness, the riders attended Mass every day and prayed together, especially the Rosary.
Becker and Schaefer are looking ahead. “Our hope and goal is to make this ride coast-to-coast,” says Becker. “We’re working up to that in baby steps, this time by going from south to north.”
Schaefer also hopes for “a network of rides all converging on Chicago the same day from cities around the country, as a well-articulated symbol of unity of the pro-life movement.”
Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.