|Becca Menke, far right, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro, is part of a Biking for Babies team riding bikes from St. Augustine, Fla., to Chicago to raise awareness and money for the pro-life cause. The team, including (from left) Celeste Woodman, Christina Woodman, Jeremy Winter, Sarah Collins, Andrew Jones, Patrick Gilbreath and Kelly West, made a stop in Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, July 16. Photo by Andy Telli|
This past October, 2010 Father Ryan High School graduate Becca Menke was a senior on Auburn University’s triathlon team. She was running a relay race across Tennessee when she met a fellow Auburn student named Jeremy Winter. Winter was a part of a pro-life effort called Biking for Babies, which sends teams of young adults on cross-country bicycle trips to raise money for abortion alternatives.
He spoke to Menke about the trip, and she eagerly decided to join the cause. “It didn’t take much convincing for me to sign up,” said Menke, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro.
Menke is a part of a team of eight people who are biking from St. Augustine, Fla., to Chicago. Two other teams leaving from New Orleans and Dallas will meet them there on July 20.
Biking for Babies was the brainchild of Jimmy Becker and Mike Schaefer. The pair were students at the University of Illinois when they decided to take a Spring Break biking trip from Carbondale, Ill., to Chicago to benefit pregnancy resource centers in 2009. They ended up raising roughly $13,000.
The event has since spread across six states and raised more than $140,000 to support women facing unwanted pregnancies. This year, participants have an overall goal of raising $100,000.
The money goes to different crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes throughout the country. “Many of these organizations are places that Biking for Babies has supported for a long time,” Menke said. “But bikers are always welcome to look for places in the different states they visit that they haven’t partnered with before and talk about it to their team.”
This year is Biking for Babies’ biggest trip to date. There are 33 participants: 22 bikers and 11 people who act as a support team for the riders. Even though the support team doesn’t get as much attention as the riders, they play significant roles on the trip.
“The support crew is very important in helping keep the bikers safe,” Menke said. “They drive ahead of us and communicate with us about road hazards and other potentially dangerous things that are coming up. They carry our luggage and snacks for us. If one of the riders gets a flat, they help us fix it. We couldn’t do this without them.”
Although Menke admitted that it was hard for her to train during the school year, it helped that she and most of her Biking for Babies teammates were Auburn triathletes.
“The St. Augustine team is unique in that most of the participants already know each other,” she said. “I would spend some time riding by myself and running alone to get ready. But sometimes I would train with my friend and fellow rider Kelly West. The boys who are riding with us also trained together sometimes. And our triathlete exercise schedule helped too, with training time and keeping us in shape.”
The ride is a grueling 1,100 miles, with stops in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Indiana. Among the Tennessee stops was an overnight stay at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville. The teams are covering between 125 and 180 miles per day. Various churches, families, and schools will provide them with lodging each night, and the bikers share their message with people in the hosts’ local communities.
Although Biking for Babies began as a Catholic movement, it is open to all Christians who wish to participate. “In years past, most participants have been Catholic. But we’re trying to reach out to Christians of other denominations,” Menke said. “One of the riders in our group is Baptist, and he set us up with a Baptist church to host us one night.”
Menke is very excited about the chance to travel across the country while simultaneously spreading the pro-life message with her peers. “God always surprises me with how He chooses to use our talents, and I cannot wait for the physical challenge of biking from St. Augustine to Chicago,” she said. “I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to work with the entire Biking for Babies team to help spread the culture of life!”
To learn more about Biking for Babies and how to donate to its mission, visit www.bikingforbabies.com.