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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

During his historic March for Life address, President Trump lauds Room at the Inn’s life-giving hope to pregnant women

012018 mfl rati 1WASHINGTON, D.C. — A week ago, Marianne Donadio had no idea she’d be visiting the White House Rose Garden during the 45th Annual March for Life, much less be honored on national TV by the president himself.

“It’s something you don’t even dream about, getting publicity like that,” said Donadio, vice president of marketing and development of Room at the Inn, a homeless shelter for pregnant women in Greensboro.

She first learned of possible media attention the Sunday before the march. Donadio listened to a rather cryptic voice message from Jeanne Mancini, president of the National March for Life. Mancini was well acquainted with Room at the Inn after speaking at its annual banquet fundraiser in October. When Donadio called Mancini back, she asked Donadio if she’d be willing to share her story. Donadio agreed, then went to Mass at her church, St. Leo the Great in Winston-Salem, and returned home to a voice message from the White House. After conversations with the Secret Service, Donadio and two of her six children, Benedict and Maria, were all set to appear on stage with President Donald Trump and others Jan. 19.

After passing through security and arranging themselves on stage, they were surprised again when they were actually called to the podium by President Trump, the first president to ever address the national March for Life. There, he spoke of Room at the Inn in detail and shared Donadio’s personal story, an embodiment of the March’s theme, “Love Saves Lives.”

“Marianne was 17 when she found out she was pregnant. At first, she felt like she had no place to turn, but when she told her parents, they responded with total love, total affection, total support,” Trump said. “Marianne bravely chose life and soon gave birth to her son. She named him Benedict, which means blessing. Marianne was so grateful for her parents’ love and support that she felt called to serve those who were not as fortunate as her."

012018 mfl rati 3Marianne and Benedict Donadio travel on the metro on their way to the White House, where they were featured in President Donald Trump's historic address to the national March for Life. (Annie Ferguson, Catholic News Herald)Donadio volunteered at the home for many years while raising her family with her husband, Don. Albert Hodges, the organization’s president and founder, hired Donadio in 2011. Since opening the Mary Nussbaum Home in 2001, the organization has served more than 400 women.

Part of what makes Donadio so effective at raising funds for the organization is getting to know the women’s stories.

“I get a lot of joy from seeing the difference our donors make in the lives of our clients. I share our clients’ stories with them, both in thanksgiving for their support and to inspire them to be ambassadors for life,” she said. “The women we serve are truly remarkable and courageous in choosing life, given their circumstances, and their stories are each unique. Telling them helps people identify with the struggles the women go through and motivate them to do something to help. It creates a connection and helps people see that they are people, just like them, who are going through a hard time.”

Father Noah Carter, parochial vicar at St. Mark Church in Huntersville and Room at the Inn board member, was overjoyed to hear about Donadio being honored on the national stage.

“Marianne’s dedication and hard work at RATI is a wonderful witness to all who meet her of what a pro-life way of living looks like,” Father Carter said.

“More than social work or pregnancy care as an alternative to abortion, Room at the Inn is a beacon of hope. Abortion is the greatest evil that our country presently faces,” he continued. “So many proponents of abortion access like to taunt pro-lifers saying, ‘And who’s gonna take care of the baby? What’s going to happen to this woman’s quality of life?’ Room at the Inn is a shining example of how people who love life can come together and support women who choose life – even when everything and everyone seems to be against them.”

The staff and volunteers at RATI work tirelessly to bring that hope to the women they serve.

And in his speech televised live from the Rose Garden to tens of thousands of people participating in the national March for Life, the president recognized what a “true gift” that hope means.

012018 mfl rati 2Six of Room at the Inn's mothers and their children play a game at a baby shower last summer. (Photo provided by Room at the Inn)“It’s the gift of friendship, mentorship, the gift of encouragement, love and support. Those are beautiful words and those are beautiful gifts. And most importantly of all, it’s the gift of life itself,” Trump said. “That is why we march, that is why we pray, and that is why we declare that America’s future will be filled with goodness peace, joy, dignity and life for every child of God. Thank you to the March for Life.”

Room at the Inn’s founder, Albert Hodges, noted afterwards that it was an honor for Room at the Inn to be included in the president’s March for Life speech. “To see not only our work acknowledged in this forum as well as the personal story of our own Marianne Donadio, a prolife heroine in her own right, makes us proud,” he said.

After the excitement at the march on Friday, Donadio’s natural optimism was even more apparent.

“The tide is turning in favor of life. Some of the reasons for that are the march and Jeanne Mancini’s leadership and ability to connect with the younger generation. Of course, there’s the political aspect of having a pro-life president. That affects people’s morale, but beyond that it’s been 45 years since Roe v. Wade,” she explained. “Women who were initially ashamed of talking of their abortion have been encouraged and empowered to tell of their experiences and warn other women that it’s not a good thing for women, and I think that’s starting to sink in as well. I do get a sense that this generation just isn’t buying the lie, and the ultrasounds are the most glaringly obvious reason. You can see so clearly at a very early age their tiny fingers and their faces on a 3D ultrasound.”

Even during her 15 minutes of fame (including an interview with EWTN), Donadio is serving others by driving the RATI group to the event, navigating the metro and even giving first-time pilgrims a tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On the way home to Greensboro, she pulled over to do interviews on a couple occasions, which prompted her blessing – the son who inspired her life’s work – to say (with love), “Hey, Mom, quit being famous and get back to the car! I’m ready to go home.”

— Annie Ferguson, correspondent

Pictured at top: Pro-life advocates watch U.S. President Donald Trump during a live broadcast to the annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 19. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)