Biking for Babies celebrates life with annual rides - Republic-Times | News

Biking for Babies celebrates life with annual rides

By on June 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm
Biking For Babies founders Jimmy Becker (front left) and Mike Schaefer (front right) pose for a photo with fellow riders and supporters in Memphis, Tenn., during last year’s ride. (submitted photo)

Biking For Babies founders Jimmy Becker (front left) and Mike Schaefer (front right) pose for a photo with fellow riders and supporters in Memphis, Tenn., during last year’s ride. (submitted photo)

For the fifth time, a local cyclist will be biking all the way to Chicago for a good cause he helped found.

Biking for Babies was started in 2009 by Freeburg native Mike Schaefer and University of Illinois classmate Jimmy Becker.

The two were enthusiastic about cycling and wanted to incorporate the sanctity of life into their idea.

“Growing up in Freeburg in southern Illinois, it’s a whole culture of supporting each other no matter what the circumstances may be,” he said. “Being an active part of the church community, I found natural resonance with the pro-life movement.”

Schaefer had done a 100-mile bike ride before and had a great time, so he talked to his friend Jimmy about it and the idea he had.

“(Becker) said, ‘let’s do it next summer and do it for pro-life,’” Schaefer said.

The first year, they rode their bikes for 600 miles from Carbondale to Chicago and raised $14,000 for a pregnancy resource center and a student pro-life group.

“Since that first year, we’ve covered 27,000 miles and fundraised $140,000 for about 15 different pregnancy resource centers, among them, Life Network of Southern Illinois,” Schaefer said.

The group’s primary partners in Illinois are Life Network of Southern Illinois in Waterloo, Women’s Choice Services in Lombard, The Women’s Center of Greater Chicagoland in Chicago and Living Alternatives in Springfield.

They’ve also supported organizations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

Their mission statement encompasses their movement to spread awareness and preserve the sanctity of life: “Biking for Babies organizes, promotes and completes an annual bicycle trip in order to increase public awareness of human rights and dignity. It will also educate the general public, organizations and political leaders about issues of today that affect human rights and dignity.”

Schaefer, who is a map enthusiast, said there wasn’t a whole lot of planning that went into their route the first year.

“But we did try to stay on back roads or two-lane state highways like 159,” he said.

The ride to Chicago has three different routes: one from New Orleans, La., one from Dallas, Tex. and one from St. Augustine, Fla.

“Seeing our friends, family and well-wishers there in Chicago at the end is one of the best parts of the celebration,” he said. “This will be the third year we will have an event at the end. We’ll have a nice dinner and recall stories from the trip.”

Schaefer calls doing this ride the most fun he has all year and said he looks forward to it each time.

He’s met many driven and passionate people just like him through his involvement with Biking for Babies and thoroughly enjoys it.

“The more meaningful dynamic is that you’re doing it and you’re having fun, but everyone has a common purpose,” he said. “It makes for a lot of special memories.”

Other motorists out on the road have been receptive and supportive of their cause over the years, and he said motorcycles have pulled up beside them and asked what they’re doing.

“Then they’ll pull over and give us a few dollars,” Schaefer said. “The support has been great.”

The ride has grown significantly over the years, from just Schaefer and Becker riding by themselves the first year to 25 different people over the past four years.

“This year, there’s going to be about 28 people biking along three different routes and a dozen different people supporting us as well,” he said. “That’s not taking into account our first local ride last year.”

In addition to the annual lengthy ride up to Chicago, the group is sponsoring the second annual local ride in Waterloo on Saturday, June 21: Biking for Babies’ Ride for Life Network.

Cyclists will leave from Gibault Catholic High School at 9 a.m. and have the option to bike 5, 20 or 50 miles.

“We had such a nice turnout for that last year,” he said. “I’m hoping for that again.”

For more information on Biking for Babies, or to learn more about the upcoming local ride, contact Schaefer at Mike@BikingForBabies.com or search “Biking for Babies” on www.eventbrite.com.

Robyn Dexter

Robyn is a reporter, staff photographer and proud alumna of Eastern Illinois University. Writing and music are her two biggest passions, and she can typically be found doing something pertaining to the two.