By: Kristan Hawkins, President
It’s been almost 3 years since Students for Life of America team members Kortney Blythe Gordon, her pre-born daughter Sophie, and Jon Scharfenberger were killed by a drunk driver. Today on what would have been Jon’s 25th birthday, our team at Students for Life has written a letter to Jon on the progress students across the United States are making with his Pregnant on Campus Initiative.
When you died, we were devastated. We had lost our teammate and friend, and we considered letting your Pregnant on Campus Initiative go. We no longer had a leader nor the time to fundraise the money we needed. And I had to deal with the painful fact that I asked you to join our team and take this leadership position. That I had recruited you to a position that placed you on that road to be hit by that drunk driver.
But I decided I couldn’t do that to your legacy, that your work was much too important. That you were too important to us.
And today, almost 3 years later, I want you to know that your legacy carries on, that your work to transform college campuses and support pregnant and parenting students has continued and is thriving.
Over the past 3 years, the Pregnant on Campus Initiative has grown from 46 to over 100 participating groups. Your program is now impacting students in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Participating student groups have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships for their peers and for local pregnancy help organizations. They have offered pregnancy tests and babysitting services. They have challenged their administrations to offer more pregnancy resources, to remove discriminatory pregnancy policies, and to consider new family-friendly housing plans. They have collected tens of thousands of diapers, hundreds of baby clothes, and many other essential items to aid families in need.
Jon, these students are changing this nation. Let me tell you about some of the great projects that groups have accomplished because of you:
- Bama Students for Life raised the bar for your initiative. The students table regularly with resources and pregnancy tests. They created a unique Pregnant on Campus website for their school complete with two videos and a Pregnant and Parenting Resource Guide. They transformed their campus and the Tuscaloosa community with their efforts to increase resources and to improve abortion clinic outreach. They even challenged a fellow student group, Auburn Students for Life, in a competitive diaper drive which resulted in nearly 4,000 supplies for their local pregnancy help organizations.
- University of New Mexico Students for Life tables every week with resources, and they are active outreach at the late-term abortion facility their university supports. In addition to regular campus educational outreach events, this group confidently speaks out against their university’s ties to the abortion industry and the health center’s avid support of abortion. Moreover, they are actively involved in their local pregnancy help organization.
- In the last year, Mississippi State Students for Life raised thousands of dollars to support the new pregnancy help organization in Starkville. These students are largely responsible for its opening, and they have been instrumental in its operation with their continued financial support.
- Boston University Students for Life successfully lobbied to get their completed Pregnant and Parenting Resource Guide on the school website. They also created a new group website which features this guide as well as other helpful resources for their peers.
- Notre Dame Right to Life, Ball State Students for Life, Xavier Students for Life, and SCSU for Life offered free babysitting services for their peers.
- William and Mary Students for Life and Students for Life at Virginia Tech have both started student-run pregnancy helplines to offer 24/7 peer-to-peer support.
- UMiami Respect Life has expanded their outreach to include a Maternal Aid Committee. In the past year, they created a Facebook page and a website for UMiami Pregnancy which features resources and information for peers facing an unplanned pregnancy.
- St. Louis University Students for Life continue to fundraise for the Virginia D. Murphy Endowment, which offers over $10,000 in scholarships to pregnant and parenting students each year.
And in the past year, these groups have saved over 38 lives that they know about.
Jon, these courageous student groups are changing our nation because you established a program that inspired them to do so. Because of the transformational role you played on our team and in the student, pro-life movement.
You accomplished something in your short life that most will never be able to compare. And the candles of truth and hope that you lit, continue to burn, now even brighter.
We love and miss you,
Kristan, Tina, and the SFLA team