Jim Weiskopf hopes Biking for Babies will become the summer equivalent to the March for Life.
He sees the potential. He just needs help from more parishes next year. And then more the following year.
Weiskopf has helped organize the annual Biking for Babies event at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester for three years. Cyclists who have traveled 600 miles over the past six days along six routes convened at the parish to celebrate the end of their ride. They ride to raise funds to support pregnancy resource centers across the nation. Nikki Biese, executive director of Biking for Babies, said the heart of the mission is evangelizing the Gospel of Life.
“Our mission is to proclaim the dignity of human life by uniting cycling with the formation of young adults into missionary disciples for Jesus Christ,” Biese said. “We form them in their own home so they can witness to the Gospel of Life, defend the vulnerable and help these women in their tough situations.”
Six years ago, Biking for Babies chose to finish the ride in St. Louis in order to form a cross with the original four planned bike routes. The end festivities were celebrated at Tower Grove Park. The group quickly outgrew the park and found a home at St. Joseph Parish.
“We’re so incredibly welcomed here, the pro-life passion is just vibrant at St. Joseph’s,” Biese said. “St. Joe’s is so incredible to work with and the diocese is so receptive of our mission that we’re just going to keep coming back.”
Cyclists from across the U.S. rode one of six routes, cycling around 100 miles each day. Chicago resident Jack Gebert, a father of four, has been riding with Biking for Babies for three years and finds it a perfect way to use his God-given gifts for good.
“It’s important to use your abilities to build up the kingdom,” Gebert said. “Simple as that. It’s important to take what you do well, and to do it for the benefit of others. I found that I was all right at cycling, and then I found Biking for Babies, and it has become a great way to use my gift to build up the kingdom.”
At St. Joseph Parish, parishioners and family members greeted the cyclists. Volunteers prepared a BBQ dinner and ceremony. During the evening, cyclists shared their testimonies from the road and heard from speakers such as Cara Paschal, executive director of Thrive Metro East, a pro-life pregnancy center in Godfrey, Illinois, that partners with Biking for Babies.
“Biking for Babies has been wonderful to spread the word that pregnancy centers exist,” Paschal said. “Many women know about abortion centers, but they don’t even realize that there is such a thing as pregnancy resource centers.”
Welcoming the cyclists has grown into a parish-wide celebration and has even extended into the broader Catholic community. This year, organizers invited parishioners from Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Manchester to volunteer and participate in the event.
“After the first year, it has gotten bigger and bigger,” Weiskopf said. “I quickly realized that this is the kind of thing that we need to start inviting other parishes to in order to help us and celebrate with us.”
Marsha Henning, a volunteer from Christ Prince of Peace, jumped at the opportunity to serve the pro-life community.
“Getting all of these parishes together and working together for a common cause is just the best,” she said. “I would like to see the Biking for Babies event be huge, where parishioners from across the archdiocese are coming. This place should be packed!”
Henning was touched seeing the young adults ride into the parking lot and hopes that others will come to witness the event next year.
“I love that it is a young event. This is a young group of people that are excited about what they are doing,” Henning said. “I feel like the fear of losing our youth is very real in the Church right now. To see these young people riding 600 miles on bikes because this is an important cause to them is so neat. It is such a blessing to see that these young people are on fire for life.”
>> Biking for Babies
Founded in 2009, Biking for Babies is an annual event where cyclists from across the nation ride one of eight 600 mile routes that convene in either St. Louis or Arlington, Virginia. Cyclists, called missionaries, set out to fundraise their ride. Ninety-eight percent of the funds raised are donated to pro-life pregnancy resource centers across the country. Next year’s ride will take place in mid-July, with applications to be a cycling missionary opening in October. Visit www.bikingforbabies.com for more information. To become involved with the celebration at St. Joseph’s in Manchester, contact Jim Weiskopf at [email protected].