“Every year, we struggle to secure funding for our ministry,” shares Sandy Buck, cofounder of Be Not Afraid, “and 2016 was a particularly difficult year for us financially.”
BNA is a national Catholic ministry headquartered in Charlotte that provides support to parents carrying their unborn child to term following a prenatal diagnosis. Founded originally as a local, parish ministry of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, BNA welcomed its first baby in 2009. Since then, the ministry has grown into a private non-profit organization that has assisted parents in 25 states and will welcome its 100th baby this spring. BNA has also helped other dioceses interested in replicating its model of care – most recently, in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas.
The ministry receives no diocesan or regular annual funding, however, and relies entirely on donations and fundraisers to assist expecting parents and help develop similar ministries elsewhere. Fundraisers by several Charlotte-area Knights of Columbus councils have been critical to BNA’s continued operations.
Notes Rich Adams, Past Grand Knight of North Carolina Council 7343 at St. John Neumann Church, “We are happy to support BNA. As Catholic men, the Knights of Columbus believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and the work that BNA does in supporting families expecting vulnerable infants is admirable.”
The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus has offered three significant donations over the past five years, and most recently, the Respect Life Committee at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg, S.C., also held a successful baby bottle campaign in support of BNA.
“Our committee is a small group, ranging from three to six core members,” says committee member Katherine Brown. “We have hosted baby bottle fundraisers for pregnancy resource centers in the past, but we chose BNA as our focus with this fundraiser because of the little-known high abortion rate among mothers receiving poor prenatal diagnoses, and the impact of services like BNA in reducing that abortion rate.”
While abortion rates in general have dropped since the mid-1970s, abortions following the detection of a fetal anomaly are on the rise. A 2006 article published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons noted that 80 percent of parents told that their unborn child had a severe congenital anomaly decided to abort. More importantly, however, the same article noted that when presented with a program of comprehensive support at the time of diagnosis – like that provided by BNA – more than 80 percent of parents chose to carry their unborn children to term.
Brown knows something about the parent experience of a prenatal diagnosis, and the support BNA provides.
“During my first pregnancy, my husband and I were given a poor prenatal diagnosis at 19 weeks and offered the option to abort our daughter,” she recalls. “We chose to carry her for as long as God allowed…and after our loss, I knew (I) wanted to be part of something that helped those who were walking that same uncertain path. I attended a BNA conference in Charlotte in 2011, and knew I wanted to be involved.”
Brown is the BNA Prayer Sponsor Coordinator assigning and updating prayer sponsors who pray for parents carrying to term daily.
Special efforts were taken to educate St. Paul parishioners about the needs of parents experiencing a prenatal diagnosis in advance of the fundraiser. BNA offered an evening presentation the week before the kickoff, and mothers who experienced a prenatal diagnosis and carried to term were allowed to speak at each Mass the weekend that the bottles were distributed.
“After Mass, several parishioners shared stories they had heard of parents struggling against pressures from medical professionals to abort after a prenatal diagnosis,” explains Heather Hayes, chairperson of the parish’s Respect Life Committee. “Most commented that not enough young parents know about their options when faced with an unexpected diagnosis. The lack of awareness of the option of carrying to term is the biggest challenge.”
When the bottles were collected and the money inside counted, the efforts of this small group of dedicated pro-life volunteers resulted in the collection of over $2,600 to support BNA. Hayes reports that the BNA baby bottle campaign was the parish’s most successful Respect Life fundraiser to-date.
“We were amazed and frankly humbled by the generosity of the St. Paul parish community,” Buck says.
“This is the largest single donation we have received from any parish,” Townsend adds. “And we would love to see one or two of our local Charlotte parishes support BNA with baby bottle fund raisers this year.”
BNA has received requests for support from parents in California, Texas, Michigan and Florida in just the first week of 2017, besides continuing to provide the only comprehensive service of support for Charlotte-area parents carrying to term following a prenatal diagnosis.
For more information about BNA, go to www.benotafraid.net. Find them on Facebook at “Benotafraid.net.”
— Tracy Winsor, Special to the Catholic News Herald