Meadville Tribune

January 23, 2013

Local contingent drawn to March for Life rally

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Bus seats are still available for Crawford County citizens interested in attending the day-long trip to Washington, D.C., Friday for this year’s March for Life, an annual anti-abortion protest meant to raise public awareness and lend a collective voice to those who “can’t speak for themselves” — the unborn.

So far, almost 200 local activists are expected to board five buses departing from the Meadville area, including three sponsored by long-time trip organizers Garth and Paula Valesky, and Doug Messerall, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. Riders are still being accepted for those three.

The other two buses, holding approximately 80 parishioners, are expected to depart from St. Agatha Parish in Meadville and St. Philip Catholic Church in Linesville.

As preparations for this year’s journey continue, Pastor Randy Keeling of Reash Community Church, Cochranton, will reprise his role as a bus captain for the fourth year.

“It’s about making a statement in D.C. that the pro-life community is alive and active,” Garth Valesky said. “It also helps energize and motivate the local community into the pro-life movement.”

Fifteen years ago, the Valesky effort struggled to fill half a bus on its first trips to the March. Within the past six years, participation has grown to warrant two to four buses a year, culminating in an estimated 1,000 attendees since the maiden voyages.

“If you haven’t gone yet, I highly suggest it,” said Messerall, noting that while the bus ride can be tiresome, the experience leaves a lasting impression. “It’s an opportunity to let (lawmakers) know where you stand.”

Messerall encourages members of his congregation to attend annually, emphasizing a recent spike in youth participation on the local and national levels.

“It’s very important to stand up for the lives of the innocent,” said Keeling. “We’re very passionate about it and we want to be part of a group that can be a voice.”

Local legislators are a big part of that voice, according to Ruth Dimerling, long-time member of Crawford County’s Citizens for Life and one of the county’s first bus organizers.

“We’re really pleased with our representatives, Glenn Thompson and Mike Kelly,” she said. “They’re very good with the pro-life movement.”

Although Dimerling is unable to make the trip, she plans to watch the coverage on EWTN Television (channel 52 on Armstrong cable) and let her voice be heard afterward.

Continual adamance and fervor in the annual March for Life is the key to driving the pro-life message home to legislators that “millions of children being murdered” is nothing short of a national tragedy, Keeling said.

This year’s current attendance is slightly below average, most likely as a result of financial difficulties rather than declining of interest, according to Messerall.

Bus seats cost $35 for students and $40 for adults. Calvary Baptist congregation members are eligible for a subsidized rate: $30 for students, $35 for adults and $100 for families of three or more, said Messerall.

Trip organizers are willing to offer consideration to those interested in attending, but unable to afford the trip.

Two buses will depart from Valesky’s Market, 1044 Water St., Meadville, on Friday at 1:30 a.m., with the third bus departing from Calvary Baptist Church, 543 Randolph St., Meadville, at the same time.

The buses are expected to return Saturday between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m.

“It’s a very tiring trip; basically a 24-hour turnaround,” said Keeling. “But it’s a sacrifice; and when you’re in that group in that march, there’s something there that just draws you back every year.”

The 2013 March for Life marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion, and serves as a significant milestone for the pro-life movement, which has seen an estimated 55 million abortion victims in the past four decades, according to March for Life organizers Jeanne Monahan and Patrick Kelly.

“Fifty-five million is nearly the population of California and New York combined,” they stated. “Clearly, abortion truly is the human rights abuse of today, and our theme this year reflects this reality.”

March for Life organizers expect total attendance to at least match last year’s estimated 500,000 participants.

n More information or to purchase a seat: Contact Garth Valesky at (814) 724-4490 or Pastor Doug Messerall at (814) 724-8099. Payments must be received in advance.

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at