By Christine M. Williams, Anchor Correspondent
BOSTON — This year, the Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s annual Walk to Aid Mothers and Children will be back in Boston and held June 29.
The baby leading the way will be 16-month-old Ryleigh, voted this year’s Walk Baby. She and her family are parishioners at St. Anne’s Parish in Shrewsbury.
Ryleigh’s mother, Courtney Mayo-Silvani, said she has always been Pro-Life, but having children strengthened her convictions. She was particularly moved when viewing ultrasound images of each of her children.
“You see that little miracle,” she said. “Somebody not wanting to give that little life a chance is just so sad. Even if they can’t care for the child themselves, there’s somebody out there that would love that child.”
Mayo-Silvani said she experienced complications during her pregnancy with Ryleigh that made the baby’s survival uncertain. Thinking about her baby heading the walk gives her “the chills.”
“She’s such a cheerful, happy baby, and it’s such a happy, hopeful charity that I just feel that it’s meant to be,” she said, adding that she and her husband feel blessed to have Ryleigh.
Mayo-Silvani also feels blessed because she recently had successful surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. Last October, she went in for a scan of her collar bone, but a paperwork mistake caused technicians to perform a brain scan. As a result, they discovered the tumor early.
Mayo-Silvani attributes the mix-up to God. “It’s a miracle,” she said, adding that the treatment for the brain tumor spurred the entry into the Walk Baby contest.
“We were going through a rough time. We wanted something to look forward to,” she said.
Every year, a strong contingent of Catholics from the Diocese of Fall River looks forward to attending MCFL’s walk, according to MCFL president Anne Fox.
“The Fall River delegation is always quite large and enthusiastic, and we’re always delighted to have them,” she said.
Registration for the 28th walk will take place on Boston Common at the Parkman Bandstand, near Tremont Street, at 1:30 p.m. The walk, which will benefit 27 Pro-Life organizations, will start at 2:30 p.m.
Historically, the walk has been held in October, but last year MCFL decided to schedule it for the spring in order to have it at a different time of year than the October fund-raising banquet. The change in the time of year prompted a change in venue. It was held at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro.
Fox praised the shrine staff for their hospitality, and many participants reported to her that they loved the location. Others felt strongly that the walk should be held in the Commonwealth’s capital. After taking in everyone’s feedback, MCFL decided to move the walk back to Boston and hold it the last Sunday in June.
“People come and, obviously, they are raising money for the beneficiary groups. That’s the main thing,” said Fox, adding that another aspect of the walk is the opportunity to give Pro-Life witness. Many participants expressed a desire to give that witness near the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Fox said the walk gives Pro-Lifers the opportunity to raise money for some fantastic charities — groups that are in the trenches for the Pro-Life cause every day. Many are crisis pregnancy centers. Other groups include homes for pregnant women, the Pro-Life offices in each Massachusetts diocese and Project Rachel, which supports women recovering from abortion.
Even if an individual cannot attend the walk, they have the opportunity to donate to the benefit organizations through the walk’s website, http://respectlifewalk.org/.
“We all want to do something to help women keep their babies,” Fox said.
Matt Hanafin, MCFL’s director of outreach, said that the website contains information on each beneficiary organization and describes in detail the “fantastic work” those groups do — often on a shoestring budget.
“It’s very important for people to realize that a lot of these organizations, ourselves included, receive no state funds at all,” he said. “We do depend on outside donations from the generous people in the state, and that’s really why we started this walk. We understood that there were much-needed funds for all these organizations.”
List of MCFL’s Walk to Aid Mothers and Children beneficiary organizations
Massachusetts Citizens for Life
A Woman’s Concern
Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resources
Birthright of Framingham
Birthright of Hudson-Marlboro
Birthright of New Bedford
Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center
First Concern Pregnancy Resource Center
Friends of the Unborn
Fund For The Unborn — Archdiocese of Boston
Heartbeat Pregnancy Resource Center
New Women’s Center, Springfield
Northern Berkshire Pregnancy Support Center
Operation Rescue — Boston
Pregnancy Care Center of Merrimack Valley
Pregnancy Help — Archdiocese of Boston
Pro-Life Office — Archdiocese of Boston
Pro-Life Office — Diocese of Fall River
Pro-Life Office — Diocese of Worcester
Problem Pregnancy of Athol
Problem Pregnancy of Worcester
Project Rachel — Boston
Project Rachel — Fall River
Project Rachel — Worcester
Springfield Pregnancy Care Center
St. Mary’s Center for Women & Children