Sen. Rick Santorum Challenges Others to Fight for Life

Sen. Rick Santorum told about 350 people gathered at Vitae Foundation’s Pro-Life Dinner in St. Charles, Mo., on Monday night that this country won the Revolutionary War because “we were all in.”  He insisted that’s how we must be today as society tries to influence our values.

“We don’t want to be like the frog in the pot.  He’s pretty comfortable and as the water gets hotter and hotter he doesn’t jump out.  Fifty-five million babies have been killed, but my family’s still fine.  We get up everyday and tell ourselves lies.  ‘I’m just one person, what can I do?’  The answer—do something!” the former Senator from Pennsylvania urged.

As abortion numbers trend downward, Sen. Santorum said it’s no wonder the other side fights so hard on this issue.  “They don’t want you to know the truth.  But Vitae does!  They shine a light on the truth and we are winning!”

Vitae VP Rene Maxey told the crowd that 5,293 babies and their mothers had been saved so far this year by Vitae’s collaborating Pregnancy Help Centers.  “The abortion decision,” Maxey noted, “is now between God, the woman, and Google.  The goal with Internet ads is to create Internet messaging dominance.  We’re almost there in St. Louis.”

There is a circle of help available to women once she responds to a Vitae ad, Maxey explained.  A single ad can lead her to a mobile unit, where she can receive a free ultrasound.  Since 64 percent of women who receive an ultrasound choose life, many of these woman are referred to a local Pregnancy Help Center where a variety of needs can be met, depending on the woman’s situation, be it a maternity home, adoption services or referrals to organizations for job training and education so she can improve the life situation that perhaps caused her to be in her current situation.

During the evening Vitae honored the Missouri Knights of Columbus with their 2014 Pro-Life Hero Award, in recognition of outstanding leadership and service; for their extraordinary efforts to proclaim the Gospel of Life by steadfastly defending the dignity and worth of every member of the human family, born and unborn.  Accepting the award were various local and state office holders, including Keith Milson, State Deputy; John Appelbaum, Meet Life Committee Chairman; Mike Auchly, State Respect Life Director; and Lou Holtman, Meet Life Coordinator.

Vitae President Dr. Patrick Castle told the audience of his experience of taking the day off from Scott Air Force Base in 2012 to stand outside of Planned Parenthood and pray and offer support to women.  One woman drove up and Dr. Castle extended his hand to her in greeting and explained he took the day to be there instead of the base.   “I was born at Scott Air Force Base,” was the woman’s response.  “Coincidence, I think not!” Castle told the crowd.  Two years later he learned that Zoe Isabella, meaning “Life promised to God,” was indeed alive and the baby he had helped save that cold February day.

Whether you stand in front of a Planned Parenthood and pray silently, give a helping hand to a woman dealing with an unintended pregnancy by leading her to a Pregnancy Help Center, or financially support groups like Vitae, that is the action Sen. Santorum was talking about on Monday night.

“My challenge tonight is for you to do something.  Vitae not only saves lives, it’s changing hearts and minds.  It’s fighting the fight,” the 2012 presidential candidate stated.  “The reason we’re wining the life issue is because Vitae is winning the argument.”

Do something today and help Vitae continue with its mission of helping women find life-affirming options during an unintended pregnancy.  Locate a Pregnancy Help Center in your community.  Put the number in your cell phone so you’ll be ready to give it to someone needing help with an unplanned pregnancy.  To reach these women who are perhaps days away from having an abortion, donate today.  If we do nothing, the abortion industry will get to these women first. Be the one to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Sharla Cloutier takes over East Coast Market for Vitae

Vitae Foundation has named Sharla Cloutier its Vice President of Development, East Region.  Cloutier will be responsible for building community support in order to generate sufficient revenue in the most abortion-vulnerable markets up and down the east coast.

“We are thrilled to have Sharla join Vitae’s national fundraising team!  It’s exciting to see young professionals like Sharla willing to dedicate their lives to the cause for life,” Vitae President Carl Landwehr stated.  “Princeton educated, business background, with years of pro-life experience, she’s the perfect person to help Vitae build strong relationships with those who want to help with our mission of reaching women and saving lives.”

Cloutier brings with her a passion for helping pregnant women in need, experience with Pregnancy Help Centers, and management consulting experience with Accenture, a multinational company.

“As I have driven results for a number of top companies since 2007 as a management consultant, I’ll bring a similar drive and energy to Vitae, according to our shared values and mission,” the Florida native stated.  “Together, we will fuel pregnancy centers with research-based media and messaging, spreading love and light, and, hopefully, ultimately, see the end of abortion altogether.”

Volunteerism in the pro-life arena has been a top priority for Cloutier since her college years as a member of Princeton Pro-Life.  Since then she has counseled pregnant mothers as a volunteer at a Pregnancy Help Center and prayed on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic in the Bronx.   This experience gave her a first-hand view of the culture of death.

“I heard directly from women their hopes and dreams, struggles and setbacks.  It broke my heart to think about the young lives being taken away and the mothers feeling so desperate as to turn to the violence of abortion to solve their dilemma.  Abortion is the very worst thing ever successfully marketed to women by the millions, death packaged as a woman’s right to choose,” Cloutier shared.

During her first few years in New York City, Cloutier came to realize the essential role of Pregnancy Help Centers and the people who work there.  It is not just in terms of the women and babies they serve, but also as the core of the greater culture of life.

“I am amazed by and thankful for the hopeful and significant work these centers do, in a city that loses tens of thousands of lives to abortion every year,” the 29-year-old pro-life advocate stated.

As a volunteer with the Sisters of Life, Cloutier assists pregnant women in a variety of capacities.  She accompanied the Sisters at their Love and Life Site at World Youth Day Madrid in 2011.  She also volunteers with the Archdiocese of New York Family Life/Respect Life Office.  Cloutier became a LIFE Runner in 2012 to be a walking billboard for life (“Remember the Unborn”) in a city that carries the heavy burden of a 40 percent abortion rate, and teaches Sunday school at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Manhattan.

When asked how this pro-life dynamo’s experiences, both professional and personal, would help Vitae with its mission of making abortion unthinkable, Cloutier was very succinct.

“Making abortion unthinkable happens one heart at a time. I want to affirm the value of every human life from conception to natural death, including the inherent dignity of those who consider themselves pro-choice,” Cloutier shared.  “We have devalued life in the womb in part because we don’t love ourselves and others as we should, and we’re not able to receive love and life as the gifts they are. I want everyone to know they are loved! This was a huge factor in helping women to choose life when I was counseling in the Bronx. If they knew they were loved and supported, it was much easier for them to make a life-affirming decision.”

Since Vitae collaborates with Pregnancy Help Centers from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale, the new East Region VP will have a large territory to cover.  However, as a frequent-flyer veteran in her previous job (making 700 flights in six and a half years), she is prepared to hit the road running with a new direction and new mission, professionally speaking.

“I come to Vitae ready to serve, totally reliant on God, and grateful for the opportunity He’s given me. I offer both my heart for pregnant mothers and the unborn, and my keen business sense. I work in terms of solutions (and love), not problems (nor fear). I analyze and strategize based on data and proven methods,” Cloutier explained.  “I can’t wait to get out there and meet Vitae donors, both to share Vitae’s media campaigns and to gather ideas and local successes from our donors up and down the East Coast. Together, we are winning!”

A native of Niceville, Fla., Cloutier is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Jim Cloutier.  She is the oldest of four children.  She graduated from Princeton with a BSE (Bachelor of Science in Engineering) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering.   While in college she played four years of Division I golf, being selected for a month-long NCAA All-Star Orient golf tour.

Cloutier replaces Thomas Cronquist, who worked Vitae’s East Region for 10 years and recently took another job.  “As Vitae’s first Development Director in that market, we thank Tom for his years of dedication in building a Vitae presence there and for his on-the-ground research that helped take our communication strategies to a new level.  We wish him well in his new position,” Landwehr stated.

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Colorado Getting Ready to Burst the Abortion Bubble

The majority of abortions in Colorado take place in the Denver/Boulder area.  The Vitae Foundation has made the move to this Rocky Mountain state and has high expectations to reach women who believe they don’t have options when faced with an unintended pregnancy.  It also happens to be the home of one of the most notorious late-term abortionists in the country.

A generous donor wanted Vitae to get started in Colorado, where there were 14,710 abortions in 2011 (most recent data available).  Vitae Vice President Rene’ Maxey met with a number of Pregnancy Help Center (PHC) directors and introduced Vitae’s marketing tools and expertise to them.


“I’m very excited to work with Real Choices, the first center to get approval in the application process, so we can move forward in an area where women need to be reached by caring centers first—before the abortion industry,” Maxey stated.  “We have given them a boost with website optimization, and they are very pleased with the results.”

Real Choices Executive Director Jenny Langness is also excited about the initial results.

“Since we began our collaboration with the Vitae Foundation, our web presence is incredible! We went from 150 impressions a month to 1,500. Our phone now rings almost exclusively with women seeking pregnancy tests and ultrasounds,” Langness noted.  “We are excited to work on a collaborative marketing campaign, where through Vitae’s help all pregnancy centers in Colorado can receive maximum exposure. Can you imagine what might happen if we were consistently reaching 80 percent of our target audience? I firmly believe that when we all work together, we will see the tide turn in our state!”

Real Choices has three locations: one in Layfette (northwest of Denver) and two in Boulder, including a key location on the University of Colorado campus.

Maxey has met with additional Colorado PHCs who are interested in joining Vitae’s targeted campaign there.   She has been in Denver and expects those centers to be joining the campaign soon.  This is key as most abortions that take place in the state are performed in the Denver/Boulder area.

“There is so much collaboration between these centers.  It’s almost like they are one organization!” Maxey explained.  “Our goal is to have these centers be on the same page.  That’s one of the biggest hurdles we face in other places before we can even start advertising.  The time has come for us to burst this abortion bubble and act as one voice, much like the abortion industry is seamless in their marketing of women.  We have to be as good, if not better, than our competitor.”

One of the most gruesome atrocities in Colorado is that fact the abortionist Warren Hern is performing abortions on women who are pregnant beyond 26 weeks.  His abortion mill is located in Boulder.  His website even offers burial services after he has completed the late-term abortion.  “Yes, Vitae is needed in Colorado!” Maxey noted.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, 16 percent of Colorado women of reproductive age had an abortion in 2011. There are 42 abortion providers in the state.  Hopefully 2014 will mark the beginning of an era where fewer abortions take place because more women found better options—life-saving options.

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Take the Quiz to Win St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Tickets… and Much More

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  1. Would you like the excitement of spending two innings in the Fox Midwest broadcast booth during a St. Louis Cardinals game with Rick Horton?  If yes, see question 2.
  2. Ever consider sitting in awesome seats at Busch Stadium with two tickets to FIVE “Weekend Pack” St. Louis Cardinals games?  If yes, see question 3.
  3. Wouldn’t owning Bobbleheads of Michael Wacha, Jack Buck, Jim Edmonds and Jose Oquendo be fun?  Especially when they come with two tickets to five “Bobblehead Pack” Cardinals games? If yes, see question 4.
  4. Can you imagine what it would be like to experience a pre-game field visit to watch batting practice?  Just imagine who you would meet!  If yes, see question 5.
  5. Finally, instead of that long drive home, wouldn’t you rather spend the night at a luxurious hotel within walking distance of Busch Stadium AND enjoy dinner at Mike Shannon’s Steak and Seafood restaurant?

Find out how you could win these great experiences….and more!

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Collaboration Makes Meet Life Work in Missouri

It was the first such gathering of its kind.  Pregnancy Help Center directors from across Missouri came to Jefferson City to hear how the Meet Life campaign is faring in the Show Me state.  Initial results are impressive, according to 2013 year-end data.  The conference was sponsored by the Missouri Knights of Columbus, which is partnering with the Vitae Foundation and In His Image Ultrasound.


Former State Deputy John Appelbaum told the crowd at the Capitol Plaza Hotel on Saturday, February 8th, that 350 ultrasound machines have been placed by the Knights of Columbus across the United States.  Missouri, however, is the only state where the Knights are using a specific marketing strategy to help more women find the Pregnancy Help Centers (PHCs) where these ultrasound machines are being placed.

“We realized we needed more of a collaborative effort of pro-life organizations.  By combining the technology of today (ultrasound) with a marketing campaign to drive women to these centers, we can save even more lives,” Appelbaum stated.

The 2013 results did bear that out!  Vitae’s Program Coordinator Julie Rauch reported that over 1,600 babies were saved in Missouri last year at centers participating in the Meet Life campaign.  Internet strategies, billboards, and pocket directories were used to spread the word about these life-saving centers.

 “We are very excited about last year’s results,” Rauch stated.  “These centers are reporting increases in client visits, increases in abortion-minded women coming to them, and overall are thrilled that Vitae was able to help with website optimization—enhancing their websites to compete head on with Planned Parenthood.”

Vitae brought in Brad Mandel with Ad America to help with the website optimization.  Mandel told conference participants “this is the only state-wide campaign like this across the country!”  He displayed listings from his computer in Kansas City for “abortion information” and three Meet Life centers came up in the search above Planned Parenthood of Kansas City.  When a woman clicks on a PHC website, that is measured as an impression.  Mandel explained that many companies would be happy with a 20 percent increase in impressions.

“Some of our centers are seeing impression increases as high as 1,000 percent or more!” Mandel reported.

Approximately 20 PHCs from across the state attended the Meet Life conference.  With 11 centers actively participating, many were there to hear how the program works and how they can become participants.

Vitae President Carl Landwehr thanked everyone there for being heroes, patriots, saints, and incredible pioneers.  “When the Culture of Life was first talked about, there was no playbook.  Then you took up the cause and you wrote the playbook.  We’re making history,” Landwehr noted.  “People who make history don’t realize they are writing it at the time.  However, we are seeing cultural change that is beginning to be measurable.”

Landwehr noted four dimensions that are leading this country to a tipping point in support of pro-life values: the ability to introduce a baby to mom and dad via an ultrasound; the evolution of the communications industry; the work of Pregnancy Help Centers; and, the majority of Americans who agree with the pro-life position.

“The fifty-one percent of Americans who consider themselves pro-life need to know about Pregnancy Help Centers and where they are located,” the Vitae president stressed.  “Abortion is a consumer decision.  Women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy either go to A or B.  We need more brand advocates that help those women find the pro-life store.  Your ad needs to be there at the ‘now moment,’ when she says, ‘What do I do now?’”

The day was topped off with the keynote by former Planned Parenthood Director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson.  Johnson announced she is opening a new Pregnancy Help Center in College Station, Texas.  This is in addition to her work with And Then There Were None, a ministry which helps abortion clinic employees leave the abortion industry.  She tipped her hat to the joint effort going on in Missouri.

“What you are doing is unique.  Sharing ideas and getting along…sometimes we’re so competitive,” Johnson laughed.

“The pro-life movement is not just about the fight.  It’s about providing for the needs.  That’s what makes what you’re doing so great!  You are getting organized and on the same page and providing services that are needed,” she noted.  “We don’t want to be the cupcake shop; we want to be the full service bakery!”

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Mother Pressured to Abort, Baby Spared Due to Vitae Ad

Last spring, “Aurora” had been to an abortion clinic to get a pregnancy test. “They pressured her to abort and she was tempted,” according to Astrid Bennett, Executive Director of Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (LAPS).  Aurora went home to think about it.  Still tempted by abortion but feeling unsure she saw LAPS’ ad in El Clasificado and made the call.

Jan_Baby_Andrew“While at LAPS, Aurora poured her heart out to our counselor, Alma, about feeling overwhelmed by her pregnancy and her problems.   Alma encouraged her to trust God and to let us help her get through the problems she was facing in her life,” Bennett shared.

Aurora chose life!  (see picture left of Andrew)

Earlier this month Aurora, nine months pregnant at the time, shared her thoughts with Bennett.  “LAPS was the only place that told me my baby is a blessing.  And they are right!  I am so happy I am having my baby. I’m due this week and my other children are so excited. They already named their little brother Andrew.”

The LAPS director noted that baby Andrew is one of 31 unborn babies that were spared from abortion thanks to God’s grace and the El Clasificado Ad in 2013.  It’s official, as Andrew made his debut this month.

“When Aurora visited us today we all felt so overwhelmed by how cute and precious little Andrew is!  We were also so impressed at how happy and relaxed Aurora looked just days from having given birth via C-section.  The peace and joy in her face was obvious,” Bennett noted…

“I felt so much pressure to have an abortion,” Aurora told LAPS.  “I was so depressed. Coming to LAPS changed everything.  The counselor’s kind words and encouragement made me feel reassured.  I am strong. I can do this. I am so happy and I love my little boy!”

Aurora also shared that after her initial visit to LAPS, the abortion clinic kept calling her.  “I was so happy to be having my baby that I just changed my number so they would stop calling me.  I am so happy that I came here to LAPS!”

Bennett is pretty happy as well, offering one last comment:  “Thank you, Vitae Foundation!”

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Diary of a Pro-Life Activist: From DC to San Francisco

For those who have never traveled to our nation’s capital for the March for Life activities, you are in for a treat!  Even if you have, you will enjoy these journal entries from Anne Carmichael, Vitae Foundation’s vice president.  Last week she logged a few miles, traveling from Missouri to DC, to San Francisco and back home.

DC to San Fran

What she also logged were her experiences along the way, marching with over a half-million people in wind chills registering below zero, to walking the San Francisco streets that in some parts were lined with angry abortion supporters shouting and cursing.

The subzero weather caused one event to be cancelled.  The District of Columbia’s Park Service called off the Nellie Gray 5K, scheduled for the morning of the March for Life.  Those single-digit temps did not deter the 650,000 people from marching down Pennsylvania Avenue with a single shared voice that said, “Life is sacred!” Since this is the largest annual human rights event that is generally ignored by the secular national media, here’s your chance to peek into the journal of a pro-life woman dedicated to the cause for over 35 years…

Monday, January 20

Lambert International Airport – St. Louis

After going through airport security, and as I’m putting my shoes back on, a man came up to me and asked if I was going to the March (my LIFE Runners jacket may have tipped him off!).  I told him I was, and he said, “That’s cool!  Wish I was going.” I traveled out with Vitae’s Events Director, Kristina Davis. 

Vitae's Anne Carmichael and Kristina Davis

Vitae’s Anne Carmichael and Kristina Davis

We ended up sitting on the plane with Karen Nolkemper, director of St. Louis Archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate.  Realizing the plane was full of people going to the March, the flight attendant got on the intercom and wished everyone well going to the event. That NEVER would have happened 31 years ago when I went to my first March for Life!

Washington, D.C.

We arrived in DC, checked into our hotel and had some lunch.  Again, I had my LIFE Runners jacket on with the “REMEMBER the Unborn” on the back and someone behind me in line said, “Hey, thanks for coming to DC!”

We went back to our hotel to get things prepared for a booth in the exhibit hall.   The rest of the group arrived, and we visited with leaders from around the country.  Masses of people were arriving and flooding the hotel lobby and exhibit area.  The hotel began organizing an “on and off” process for elevators.  You could hear people talking about where they were from, who they came with, and, of course, how excited they were.

Dr. Pat Castle (Vitae’s incoming president and Founder/President of LIFE Runners) arrived, and a group of us headed out to dinner.  We were joined by Leslee Unruh, director of the Sioux Falls Alpha Pregnancy Center, Joe Baker, Director/Founder of Save the Storksmobile pregnancy centers, Alice Chapman, LIFE Runners’ chairperson for the Fall LIFE Runners race and banquet (Air Force Marathon, which Vitae Foundation is the official LIFE Runners national beneficiary of funds raised), and Sharon Weidelman, Public Policy Committee of the Missouri Catholic Conference and LIFE Runner. We used the time to plan for potential weather issues with the Nellie Gray 5K and LIFE Runners fall race AF Marathon.

After walking back to hotel, we toured the Save the Storks mobile unit.

Inside of Save The Storks Mobile Pregnancy Center

Inside of Save The Storks Mobile Pregnancy Center

Then we ran into Vitae friend, Abby Johnson. Abby has spoken for Vitae all across the country as a former Planned Parenthood director and is the Founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry helping abortion clinic workers leave this industry of death.

Tuesday, January 21

DC Law of Life Summit

The National Law of Life Summit is a prestigious event that’s hosted by Ave Maria School of Law and promoted by the March for Life.  It is always an honor to be part of such a high-level forum with so many pro-life leaders from around the country.  If the pro-life community were a country, this would be the group leading it to change the rest of the world!

The Summit was a who’s who of the pro-life movement beginning with the events emcee, Dr. Pat Castle.

Dr. Patrick Castle, Law of Life Summit , Emcee

Dr. Patrick Castle, Law of Life Summit , Emcee

There were 32 speakers that included David Bereit (40 Days for Life), Bobby Schindler (Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation), Rebecca Kiessling (Save the One), Allan Parker (Justice Foundation), Fr. Frank Pavone (Priests for Life), Rob Rysavy, (LIFE Runners – also Vitae Foundation board member)

Rob Rysavy, LIFE Runners Board Member

Rob Rysavy, LIFE Runners Board Member

Jeanne Monahan (March for Life), John-Henry Westen (Life Site News), Troy Newman, (Operation Outcry), Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Diocese of Springfield, Ill., and LIFE Runners’ Chaplain), Abby Johnson (And Then There Were None), Lila Rose (Live Action),

Lila Rose

Lila Rose

and many others. There were so many strong messages!

Law of Life Co-Founders with honoree, Troy Newman, Operation Rescue

Law of Life Co-founders with honoree, Troy Newman, Operation Rescue

I was on the panel of speakers and shared how we use Right Brain Research as the foundation for our ads.

Anne Carmichael, Vitae Foundation VP

Anne Carmichael, Vitae Foundation VP

Where Vitae ads go up, abortions go down!  I talked about the strategy of recent years with our Call-for-Help ads.  I explained how in the 1860’s abortions were just as prominent per capita as today and what brought them down to an all-time low in 1910, remaining low until the 60’s cultural revolution (World Magazine, Dr. Marvin Olasky, Lessons from the Past, Jan 17, 2009).  The support services that worked a hundred years ago were like those of today’s Pregnancy Help Centers.  Vitae believes we can do this again by providing research-based media targeting abortion-minded, pregnant women and directing them to local centers.

Vitae has raised over $71 million and based on our “average cost of lives saved” in recent campaigns, that would equate to over 100,000 lives saved.

After the Summit ended, there were people who sought us out to find out more about Vitae and bring our media to their area!

Meanwhile, the weather outside was getting increasingly worse as snow blanketed the area.  Emails were coming in asking about the 5K. This race honors March for Life founder Nellie Gray, who passed away in 2012.  It was initiated last year by the National LIFE Runners Team 543628_164540070361299_400108114_nwith the support of the March for Life and its board of directors, and sponsored by Vitae.  We continued to say we weren’t cancelling. Then about 4 p.m.word came from Jeannne Monahan that the National Park Service cancelled the 5K.  So things had to be done to insure others knew it was cancelled.   In the mean time, Pat and the Glass family were asked to come on stage at the Youth Rally.

Youth Rally, March for Life

Youth Rally, March for Life

Pat introduced 6-year-old Keelan Glass as the LIFE Runner who set a World Record as the youngest person to run a half marathon. She did it because, like her mom, Tracy Glass, she wanted to run for the babies.  LIFE Runners honored Keelan as the Female Student LIFE Runner of the Year.

Wednesday, January 22

The Rally

In my lifetime, I have never worn so many layers of clothes!


 Each of us helped carry banners for LIFE Runners and Save the Storks Mobile Pregnancy Centers to the EWTN area behind the stage.  It was difficult with wind and snow/ice underfoot. We didn’t care though; adrenaline and excitement took over.  You couldn’t look any direction without seeing other pro-life marchers.  Pat was with EWTN folks getting last minute details as we waited for instructions.  Keelan Glass’s family went in a warming tent while her dad, Greg, helped hold up the banner in the wind.  Then Spanish EWTN came over and interviewed Jeff Pauls who did a beautiful job speaking fluent Spanish. He presented the host, Elena Rodriguez, with a LIFE Runner shirt (the first Spanish LIFE Runner shirt) and then after the interview was complete, LIFE Runners received their first member who joined from Mexico.  Many others followed.


We moved over to the March for Life Rally stage (of the six Marches I’ve attended, last year was the first year I ever saw the stage and could actually hear speakers – I couldn’t believe we were just 20 feet from it!).

It was now time for the interview, and the camera crew was cuing the group with Pat while Jeff and Rob steadied the banner in the background.  We moved in close, and Pat did an outstanding job getting everything in quickly, including the presentation to Keelan,  talking about Vitae Foundation.  1526259_10151801297881792_1660565065_nIt played out so well – very exciting!  Later we received emails and messages from others around the country (including my husband and son) that said they, too, were joining in with the LIFE Runners cheer Pat ended the interview with – Pat shouts: “All in Christ!” The rest respond: “For Pro-Life!”  After the interview, in just minutes, over 50 new LIFE Runners members signed up online.


While we were doing the EWTN interview, we saw Missouri priests from the Kansas City/St. Joseph Diocese, one of which was LIFE Runner Fr. Joseph Totton, who attends Vitae’s KC Event each year.

We then watched the Rally and listened to speakers from our close position at the side of the stage.  Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) and Vicky Hartzler, (MO-4) addressed the crowd.

DSC_0088 (1)

Afterwards Pat and I were able to visit with them. Jeanne Monahan then asked pro-life leaders to come up on stage.  Pat carried Keelan up, and I followed behind him. What an amazing experience!


After our stage time, we joined our larger group, which morphed into the sea of pro-lifers to begin the epic March. It is a like a slow river flowing as masses meld together.


So many banners and signs framed with PVC pipe to keep them high and taut. It’s about sacrifice for those strong enough to carry the banners that stood 20 feet high in gusting wind too.  Rob Rysavy, Jeff Pauls, and Dr. Castle took turns carrying and occasionally would be relieved by others, like Vitae’s Tom Cronquist who joined the group at the beginning of the March.  Only the guys could handle the extremely large banner that was created by LIFE Runner Sara Beaner.  Sara’s banners are always the largest and most visible.  This year it was also named one of the most inspiring, out of thousands! 558293_10151804459471792_90938343_n Also, it was in two of the official March for Life photo albums.  There is always a blend of cheers, chants, singing and of course the LIFE Runners…All in Christ…For Pro-Life!  This was Kristina’s first March and overwhelming was the term she used to describe it, too.

Kristina Davis, Vitae Foundation Events Director

Kristina Davis, Vitae Foundation Events Director

We concluded at the Supreme Court; then it’s time to find our way out of the crowd to walk back to the hotel.   You see a lot of people at the end of the March.

Kristina Davis, Dr. Pat Castle with Karen Knollkemper, Director of St. Louis Archdiocesan Respect Life Apostalate

Kristina Davis, Dr. Pat Castle with Karen Knollkemper, Director of St. Louis Archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate

Before we separated, we ran into Vitae friend and pro-life hero, Star Parker.

Dr. Pat Castle, Star Parker and Anne Carmichael

Dr. Pat Castle, Star Parker and Anne Carmichael

What a pleasant surprise. Star has spoken for Vitae many times.

The Rose Dinner was that evening.  Pat visited with Dr. Charles Kenny (the man behind The Right Brain People and Vitae’s valuable research) and Dr. James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family),

Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Patrick Castle

Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Patrick Castle

among others. Afterwards it was time to pack and prepare for our 4:30 a.m. departure.  Every morning started early, but this was going to be the earliest yet!  Kristina was not going to make the west coast trip, so we said our goodbyes.

Good friends - Abby Johnson and Kristina Davis

Good friends – Abby Johnson and Kristina Davis

Thursday, January 23

DC to San Francisco

As we made our way to DC’s Dulles Airport, with five others, Pat read out loud the LIFE Runners’ Devotion, “Light of the Living.,”that Jeff Pauls had written.  It was very appropriate as we rode along in the dark.

Our plane had some mechanical problems, so we were delayed by about an hour, then we were off on our 5.5 hour flight to San Francisco for the West Coast Law of Life Summit and Walk for Life (second largest pro-life event in the country).  Pat in his usual form became a helper to the 95-year-old traveler next to him that needed assistance with a variety of things including her bag after we landed and getting her to a connecting flight.  San Francisco was a balmy 70 degrees. Later we met up with Rob (Vitae Foundation board member) and wearing our shirts “REMEMBER the Unborn” we walked through Chinatown and surrounding area of San Francisco.

Rob Rysavy on Streets of San Fran

Rob Rysavy on Streets of San Fran

Friday, January 24

Youth Rally Mass-West Coast Law of Life Summit

We walked to the Youth Rally Mass and then met with the San Francisco Archdiocese Respect Life Program Coordinator, Vicki Evans.

While we were with her she shared how the West Coast Walk for Life started and what it was like back then.  Vicki said while pro-lifers had their rally before the walk, pro abortion forces there rallied in an adjacent area that was close by.

Rob Rysavy, Anne Carmichael, Vicki Evans and Dr. Pat Castle

Rob Rysavy, Anne Carmichael, Vicki Evans and Dr. Pat Castle

When the abortion supporters rally ended, they turned and faced the smaller pro-life group and came at them as one large mass in a very threatening way.   Vicki said you could almost hear a hissing sound that emanated from them among the shouts and screams. That moment of the first Walk for Life was described later in the day by Dolores Meehan, one of the Law of Life speakers and co-founder of the Walk for Life.  She said, “They [the pro abortion groups] sounded like the orcs at Helm’s Deep.”

In that first Walk for Life, abortion supporters filled condoms with simulated blood and other such things then threw them at the pro-life group (7,500) as they passed.  Nonetheless, pro-life walkers stood firm in their faith, commitment and prayerfully moved forward through the gauntlet of pro-abortion forces that lined the streets.  Further along the route a barricade was created by abortion proponents, with locked arms refusing to allow them to pass.  While the police faced off with them, pro-life walkers changed their course and went around the area.  Here are some dramatic pictures of abortion supporters at the 2006 West Coast Walk for Life (2nd one).  

City officials supported pro-abortion efforts while the police supported the pro-life walkers and valiantly gave them a shield of protection in full riot gear.  I read Vicki’s blog before coming to San Francisco.  She wrote about the first walk for life.  Here’s an excerpt:

I used to think I might be a martyr someday. I actually wanted to be one. I believed this might occur during San Francisco’s Walk for Life West Coast, when in 2005, for the first time, we challenged the City’s militant pro-abortion culture at our peril. But something happened on the way to the Coliseum. The secular culture went too far in its unconditional embrace of abortion and our side started to win. Not only were we Walkers not martyred, but polls started turning against those favoring unrestricted abortion. Young people came to San Francisco in droves championing the Walk’s message that abortion hurts women, men, children, families, society; and women deserve better than abortion. We glimpsed the future of the pro-life movement and it was not what the prevailing culture was predicting.

The Walk for Life confronts the worst of San Francisco, a City that prides itself on being unreservedly pro-abortion…Maybe we’re getting harder to ignore. Maybe the Walk for Life will be our gift to the West Coast in the 21st century and we won’t be martyrs after all.

We also visited about the Pregnancy Help Centers in the area.  She said all offer ultrasound and need constant support and prayers.  I think that is our cue.

Vicki is one of the many wonderful pro-life leaders we met in the couple of days we were there.  She is very accomplished and has a fiery commitment to her faith and the cause for life.

Afterwards we quickly made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the West Coast Law of Life Summit.

The group that gathered at the Law of Life Summit was some of the most interesting people – speakers and attendees.

Dr. Pat Castle with Fr. Frank Pavone, WC Law of Life

Dr. Pat Castle with Fr. Frank Pavone, WC Law of Life

Dr. Pat Castle, the event emcee, again did an excellent job facilitating the forum.  It was an honor to be presenting along side so many pro life leaders like, David Bereit, Father Frank Pavone, Father Terry Gensemer, Reggie Littlejohn, Rob Rysavy, and

Dolores Meehan, WC Walk for Life

Dolores Meehan, WC Walk for Life

Dolores Meehan (one of the founders of the West Coast Walk for Life). After my presentation finished, there were a lot of great questions and comments that I was able to address…even some cheers for our life-saving statistics!  Life Legal Defense Fund hosted a reception afterwards which gave us more time to visit with everyone. There were requests for Vitae media in not only San Francisco, but also, Sacramento and other areas of California.  There was so much excitement among the group that they didn’t want it to end.

Dr. Pat Castle, Dana Cody and Royce Hood

Dr. Pat Castle, Dana Cody and Royce Hood

Thanks to Ave Maria Law School, Royce Hood, Dana Cody and our incoming president, Dr. Pat Castle, for providing such a wonderful forum that will go forward as part of the West Coast Walk for Life activities.

Saturday, January 25

West Coast Rally – Walk for Life – Mass

The next day we started out on foot again.  We left the hotel at 8 a.m. with “the box” that Pat and Rob carried up the hill to St. Mary’s Cathedral.  We joked as we went because it was so long and all watched curiously as we passed.  Arrived at the church – Pat and Rob immediately assembled and set up the banner in front of the church.  People began to gather around it as a photo op.  This was a special Mass with 17 bishops from the area.  Church was packed standing room only.

We met up with LIFE Runners from Oregon.  They helped carry the banner and the flag to the gathering place for the Walk for Life Rally.  What a contrast in weather – it is now sunny and temp climbing into 80’s!  The LIFE Runners banner was one of the largest at the 60,000-person rally.  We spoke with folks that were passing by and then EWTN did another interview with Pat – where again he told about Vitae Foundation being the oldest and largest public information campaign.

Dr. Pat Castle, EWTN Interview, WC Walk for Life

Dr. Pat Castle, EWTN Interview, WC Walk for Life

(Go to the 17:10 minute mark in the video.)  Our banner was used as the backdrop for the EWTN set where they were broadcasting live from the rally.

There were many speakers at the rally, and they focused on how “Abortion Hurts Women.”  After about an hour we began to assemble in the street.  The crowd was larger than I had imagined.  The sights and sounds were overwhelming.  I couldn’t believe I was in San Francisco walking in a pro-life march.  Not the place you’d expect it.  Then when I stopped to get a picture of the banner making a turn on the very wide Market St. and hearing this group of musicians that were playing and singing as they passed with several instruments, I teared up. 1555487_283719638443341_1871177669_n I’m not sure what came over me.  But seeing the size of the crowd and then our banner coming around the corner just stirred my soul. I was so proud of my team, of Pat, Rob, and others including Sara Beaner, who made the awesome banner, the marchers who were praying and singing…standing up  for life in one of the more hostile places in the country and so many, many pro-life people.  I still am not sure what it is about this Walk for Life, but I really felt deep in my soul that we were blessed to be a part of something so profoundly huge.


…And the Walk takes a turn

As we moved down the street, you could begin to hear bullhorns and loud shouting (watch this clip at the start – then forward to 24:40 minutes and you’ll see our team and our huge banner.  I was on the far side of our banner right behind the flag.  Rob Rysavy and  Scot Stewart are shown carrying the banner).  I heard someone say, “Everyone move to the center of the street!”  The police formed a line along the street, so I knew pro-abortion protesters were up ahead.


  Then we were right in front of them.  It appeared for a moment that they were all around us. 

Angry Abortion Supporters

Angry Abortion Supporters

There were a variety of areas where these groups were along the way, but definitely not one large group as it was in years past.  A woman that had participated for several years in the Walk said that 2 years earlier, the area we were approaching, was blocked by the pro-abortion women who linked arms.  Another time they stretched an orange net across the street that caught several of the motorcycle police that were protecting the pro-life group, throwing them from their vehicles.  Fortunately there was nothing like that this year.  We continued to the waterfront which is where it concluded with music.  There were more EWTN interviews.  We encountered some onlookers that had questions, and visited with other pro-life folks about our organizations.


As the crowd began to fade, we made our way to church.   We headed down The Embarcadero, and it was a parade-like image.  We were no longer in the very large crowd – now it was just our small band of  LIFE Runners (six) with a billboard-like sign that said “REMEMBER the Unborn” on one side  and “Go LIFE Runners” on the other.  There were some honks, cheers, and jeers along the way to church.


Mass was beautifully said in the oldest language of the church, Latin.  It was very solemn and a very appropriate way to end our day.   Afterwards, we walked the banner back to our hotel and enjoyed one last meal together.

The next day came quickly and we all headed in different directions making our way home. There was so much to think about, follow up on and explore from the past week.  I made some notes on the plane and then kind of laughed to myself about some of our minor mishaps through out the trip.  Most of all though, I was so pleased as it was once again demonstrated through the numbers at the Walk, the enthusiasm at the Summit and the excitement at the rally…that the tide was turning.  So many things to point to that demonstrate the cultural change occurring.  Now I have more to add to the list I keep that illustrates the fact that together we are winning! 1545749_10151767666426792_1671237991_n

But we can never give in or give up.  So as Dr. Castle, Vitae’s next president who is currently serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force likes to tell us, “Forward, forward always forward!”

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