In January 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered schools, churches, and businesses also changed the March for Life Chicago. But its organizers would not be thwarted, and they came up with an exciting alternative!
WeDignify—the Champagne-based pro-life group that organizes the march and that also mentors college students as they strive to become pro-life leaders—utilized the pandemic restrictions to create a unique event in lieu of the normal march activities.
Instead of marching through the streets of Chicago, weDignify called for car rallies and car processions in six cities in the states of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, and Illinois. This event—Moving the Movement—was more successful than anyone could have imagined.
In addition to the car rallies, weDignify sought to collect 130,094 diapers to donate to local pregnancy resource centers. This number represents the number of babies aborted annually in the Midwest. Incredibly, their efforts brought in even more diapers than expected!
COVID couldn’t stop them
Anna Kinskey, associate director of weDignify, spoke to American Life League’s executive director, Jim Sedlak, during his January 18, 2021, Radio Maria program Pro-Life Activism from Creation to Death (all.org/audio). Kinskey spoke about how the car rally was conceptualized, and she emphasized the group’s determination to not allow COVID restrictions to force them to take a year off from the annual march. She explained that the march in 2020 had garnered such interest that they just didn’t want to see that passion die.
That year, they had 9,000 people who gathered in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and who then marched down Michigan Avenue. They also had “organizations from 13 different states represented. . . . There were political groups. There were pregnancy resource centers. There were post-abortive healing groups.” All were there to help people understand how to become advocates and leaders upon their return home.
Organizers had planned for a more significant event in 2021 with a much larger venue, but because of the pandemic constraints, they had to make changes. Kinskey said they prayed for the Holy Spirit’s direction, and that’s when they came up with Moving the Movement.
This prayerful contemplation allowed them to see that they should not take the year off. She stated: “God was really calling us and really made it clear . . . that we could see that this was the most important time for us to be serving on campus and having our students engaged however they could.”
So, instead of marching, leaders decided to travel by van to typical March for Life locales, such as Madison, Omaha, Fort Wayne, Mundelein, and Indianapolis, with the tour ending in Chicago. In each city, they held drive-in rallies and car processions. The drive-in rallies allowed people to gather in one place, yet stay separate and safe, as all participants stayed in their cars and listened to speakers via their car radios. After the rally, participants would then process around the city holding signs out their car windows. Some people even decorated their cars with pro-life messages.
Helping moms along the way
The massive diaper drive began slowly, but interest gradually picked up, and by the end of the tour, the group hauled in an astounding 156,518 diapers—exceeding its desired goal! All along the tour, organizers donated the diapers to local pregnancy resource centers, helping 20 in total!
Kinskey said that one of the greatest things about the diaper drive was that people could donate online, and the group would purchase the diapers. This convenience allowed those who could not physically participate to still help make a difference. And make a difference they did, as people from both coasts and even from the southern states contributed.
Kinskey laughed as she recalled a funny story about her attempt to purchase a large amount of diapers to have shipped to Omaha. The store, recognizing that such a huge purchase was irregular, flagged it as a fraud. Kinskey then had to call and explain that she was indeed trying to ship “nine gigantic boxes of diapers to Omaha.” She states that her phone call to the customer service representative was “a good evangelization moment,” as she had the opportunity to talk about the assistance they were giving to mothers.
Unite and inspire
Momentum for the March for Life tour grew each weekend, with hundreds of cars registered at each of the cities. With an average of three people per car, combined with those participating via livestream, organizers estimate that more than 8,000 people attended the Moving the Movement tour.
During a February 1 interview on Jim Sedlak’s radio program, Kevin Grillot—executive director of weDignify—said the goal of the movement was to unite and inspire pro-life communities in Chicago and across the Midwest. And inspire they did!
“We want that message to go wide and far for how we celebrate life,” Grillot stated.
He explained that weDignify has had a Chicago presence since 2013, when the late Cardinal Francis George instructed one of his staffers to pull various pro-life organizations together, and that this presence remains important because Chicago and Illinois have been referred to as the “abortion oasis of the Midwest.”
According to Grillot, “This is definitely the place where a lot of abortions are happening, and the value of the unborn child is really . . . non-existent when it comes to state laws and regulations.”
March for Life Chicago tour speakers spoke about their unique reasons for being pro-life, offering what Grillot described as “powerful testimonies.” In Indianapolis, Braedon Eckert—an advocate for foster care and adoption reform—shared his own story of life in foster care, a life that was followed by a loving adoption and the eventual encounter with his biological parents. At the same Indiana tour stop, Heather Wilson witnessed to the healing power of the post-abortion ministry.
In addition, civic and religious leaders provided inspiration, hope, and encouragement. Speakers included Dr. Christina M. Francis of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pat McCaskey of the Chicago Bears and Sports Faith International, Dr. Pat Castle of LIFE Runners, Pastor Mark Jobe of Moody Bible Institute, Rev. Matthew Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, and other national and local leaders from political, educational, and religious arenas.
Grillot spoke about what an honor it was to have been a part of this, especially in his current leadership role.
Further, he said that one of the extraordinary highlights of the tour was the number of volunteers at each stop who helped make the diaper drive a success. He recalled the scene in Madison, Wisconsin, where pro-lifers collected diapers and brought them to a stage in the parking lot of a convention center. Grillot said there had been a lot of snow that weekend and that there were “kids with sleds actually pulling the diapers in to the front of the stage.” He marveled at the participation, saying: “It was wonderful to see.”
Caitlin Bootsma, director of marketing and communications at weDignify, explained that while the organization provided a means to gather during the pandemic that was “safe and strong,” this coming January they will be marching in the streets of Chicago.
“We expect to gather over 10,000 people from a number of Midwestern states,” she said. “With abortion numbers on the rise . . . we are calling on individuals and groups to stand up for life in what is sadly the abortion capital of the Midwest—Chicago.”
With a newly designed leader guide, March for Life Chicago 2022 will have plenty of opportunities for participants to witness publicly for the sanctity of life, to learn, and to connect with other pro-lifers.
“In 2020, we had our first pro-life convention, and because we exceeded capacity then, we’ve moved to a much bigger space at the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue,” she said. “It’s conveniently located to the march and is a place for marchers to get to know over 40 pro-life organizations, to participate in educational breakout sessions, a youth rally, a pro-life Catholic Mass that is open to all, and a banquet.”
The March for Life Chicago will take place on January 8, 2022, with the date chosen because of its proximity with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Additional announcements will be forthcoming regarding speakers, a service component, and more.
WeDignify encourages anyone interested to sign up at marchforlifechicago.org to receive the latest updates. The march, rally, and convention are free of charge, but the hosts ask for a goodwill offering from attendees. The youth rally and banquet are ticketed events; registration will be available on the website.
The interest and participants give us hope, and we desperately need hope today. As Kevin Grillot states, we must not give up on “the hope and passion for life. . . . We have to turn that into How do we bring forth love for life? and find ways to make an impact.”
And that is exactly what the March for Life Chicago does.
Giving voice to preborn babies is vital, especially in our current political climate. Threats to the preborn abound, as many state and federal government officials push abortion-on-demand.
We cannot sit home in silence and watch this happen. We must make our voices heard. The national marches next year provide a great opportunity to do so.
In addition to the March for Life Chicago, you can march in Washington, DC, or in San Francisco.
The National March for Life in Washington, DC, will be held on January 21, 2022. You can find information at marchforlife.org.
The Walk for Life West Coast will be held on January 22, 2022. You can find information at walkforlifewc.com.
Further, many states have their own pro-life marches throughout the year. Check with your local pro-life organizations for information.
The babies need our voices. Will you speak for them?