Pro-life cycling apostolate Biking for Babies has raised more than $1.26 million for pregnancy resource centers since 2009
PLYMOUTH — The Tour de France is in full swing, but there is another bicycling trek happening this week that serves a different kind of purpose.
Ten young adults are making a 659.3-mile trek from Plymouth, Michigan, to Manchester, Missouri — not quite the same as the 2,220-mile race that is the pinnacle of bicycle racing — but a journey that nonetheless is being undertaken for a far greater cause.
The group is Biking for Babies, a pro-life apostolate of young adults who every year complete an approximately 600-mile bike ride while raising money for pregnancy resource centers. Over the past 13 years, Biking for Babies has pedaled 31,000 miles, raising $1.26 million for 102 pregnancy resource centers around the country.
“We are a pro-life missionary organization seeking to raise money for pregnancy resource centers while forming young adult missionaries,” Lauren Woelffer, a member of the Biking for Babies Michigan route team, told Detroit Catholic. “All our riders and support staff go through a formation program from March to September, where our missionaries are formed in pro-life apologetics. We grow in spirituality, we grow in friendship, and as a group, we fundraise for pregnancy resource centers across the country.”
The 10 missionaries include riders and others who provide technical support from a van that follows the riders, everything from preparing meals to repairing bicycles along the route. The group began their journey with an information night and fundraiser July 9 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth.
The group woke up before the sun the next morning and hit the road by 6 a.m., completing an 83-mile trek to a host family in Hillsdale, Michigan, the shortest leg of the trip. Other stops on the route include St. Monica Parish in Mishawaka, Indiana; a Knights of Columbus Council in Lafayette, Indiana; St. Patrick Parish in Champaign Illinois; and a host family in Springfield, Illinois.
The journey ends at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester, Missouri, where the Michigan route will join riders from other routes who journeyed throughout the Midwest for a Celebration of Life at St. Joseph Parish on July 15 that will feature pro-life speakers and a chance to celebrate the riders and support crew.
“The backstory for Biking for Babies is two young men, one a college student, the other a FOCUS missionary at the University of Illinois, decided to ride across the state of Illinois to raise money for a pregnancy resource center in Champaign-Urbana,” said Vincent Moore, route leader for the 2023 Biking for Babies Michigan route. “They started in 2009, and since then it has expanded to eight routes, more than 80 missionaries, raising just over $250,000 in one year to support pregnancy resource centers all over the country.”
This is the first Michigan route for Biking for Babies, which the apostolate hopes will encourage young adults to start their own route and join next year’s ride.
“It takes a special kind of person to ride over 100 miles per day,” Moore said. “It’s a great challenge physically, and it brings forth discipline for the riders to do that. For the support crew, it takes great discipline to wake up early, fill water bottles, make breakfast, to cheer us (riders) on when we’re dog-tired. All these virtues are cultivated by this activity, and that makes it worthwhile, in my opinion.”
The team tries to get most of their miles in the morning before the hottest part of the day. The route is mostly planned out, avoiding interstates and state highways, but navigators in the support van always research ahead to find the nearest bicycle shop in case of repairs.
The team usually takes a quick break every 30 miles or so and stops for lunch two-thirds of the way through the day.
“During the day, when the riders are riding, the support crew is following behind, making sure everyone is hydrated and well-fed,” Woelffer said. “The support crew may encounter people along the way at various gas stations or local restaurants. Anyone we have the chance to share the mission with, we do.”
The Biking for Babies team wears uniforms to identify themselves, which invites conversations with people they encounter about what they are doing and why — and where people can donate. There is an information night and fundraiser at each of the stops along the route.
While the national ride is the highlight of Biking for Babies' year, the work goes beyond this one week.
“When not on the national ride, we’re raising funds from March to September, with a lot of fundraising coming from friends and family,” Woelffer said. "We are encouraged to share the mission with people around us, with extended family.”
The riders say moments of encounter with strangers along the route, coupled with the struggle of cycling hundreds of miles a day for a week, are all about uniting their efforts to those who work or volunteer at pregnancy resource centers across the country.
“Like any baptized Christian, our difficulties and challenges on the ride can be united to our Lord on the cross,” Moore said. “That is probably the biggest spiritual dimension of the ride, offering what we do, especially our sufferings, up to others, so they might be given the graces they need. When I’m riding, I’m thinking about the sufferings our Lord went through, and any time meditating on the Lord’s passion can never be time wasted.”
There are many ways to support the pro-life cause, from the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., to sidewalk counseling, volunteering at a pregnancy center or participating in baby supply drives.
But for the riders of Biking for Babies, the national ride is a public witness for life, a way to build camaraderie among fellow pro-lifers, and an opportunity to unite their challenges with the challenges of countless women who choose life every day.
“You can look at an organization like this and think, ‘Why cycle for 600 miles in one week? Can’t you just raise money and forget the whole biking part?'” Woelffer said. “And the answer is yes. That would still be a beautiful ministry. But the cycling aspect really brings in the sacrifice. Christ asks us to sacrifice. When we ask women, especially women in unplanned pregnancies, to bring life to their children, to choose life, that’s a sacrifice.
“This whole experience is truly spiritual in the way we united ourselves to them, to understand better all the effort it takes to be pro-life.”