“The Billboard People”

August 24, 2012

Embracing Life

Don’t you just love driving along a highway and seeing those billboards of cute babies? They immediately grab my attention–and yours, too, I’m sure–which is exactly what they were designed to do. Some babes pictured are newborn; some have dimpled smiles or chubby faces; some are wearing ball caps; and my favorites feature young ones with Down syndrome. These photos sport such sayings as:

  • Our hearts were beating 18 days from conception
  • The point is…you had fingerprints 9 weeks from conception
  • Look…I’m the future! Babies’ eyes develop 14 days from conception
  • Grandma says: I’ve got my daddy’s eyes! Unique DNA at conception
  • Adoption…We can live with that! 2,000,000 couples wait to adopt
  • Did you know?…I could smile and suck my thumb before I was born?

I personally appreciate their positive perspective. The babies on the billboards tug at my heartstrings, making me long to hold and protect them. Often, I have small children in the back seat of my truck, and when we zoom by these advertisements they’ll say, “Ahh, Mom…did you see that sweet little baby’s face?” Yep…that’s a baby alright! A volatile human being. Created with dignity. Worthy of life. This is the reaction that “The Billboard People” hope to gain with their campaigns.

PROLIFE Across AMERICA is the mastermind behind these powerful advertisements. It was founded in 1989 by Mary Ann Kuharski who is the Executive Director and founder of this non-profit organization. From the get-go they had a mission through billboard, TV, radio and newspaper ads to educate people who may not be reached in any other way. Today they continue being committed by encouraging people to choose life for the pre-born. They bring positive, persuasive messages by use of their hot-line number which is on all ads. This number offers information on abortion-alternatives, adoption and post-abortion help.

And it’s working!

The efforts are gaining ground

Mary Ann states on her website, “Our ads and 800# Hotline are changing hearts and saving babies’ lives.” They receive nearly 200 calls a month as a result of their billboards. Here are some examples of the comments people have made:

  •  “I’m sending a photo of my grandchild. You can show others if you wish. It’s a small way of saying “thank you” for those billboards. My grandson is here today because my daughter saw those ads and made the decision for life” (Minnesota)
  • “I hate to admit that I’m nearly six months along and still was uncertain on what I was going to do. I’m so glad I saw your ad. I truly believe adoption will be best – for the baby and me.” (Springfield, Missouri)
  • “Abortion was never an option after I saw that first billboard and learned my baby already had a beating heart (18 days after conception). I wanted life for my baby. My baby will have a future too.” (Roswell, New Mexico)
  • “Someone gave me your number and said that you would help me.” (Brooklyn, NY)
  • “Thank you! Thank you for recognizing the preciousness of babies with Down syndrome! We have a brother [with Down's] who is such a blessing to our family!”
  • “My daughter (18) was just preparing to go off to college when she discovered she is pregnant. She is leaning toward adoption. Can you steer us in the right direction?” (St. Paul)
  • “I had an abortion several years ago. I can’t get over the greif I feel. Is there some kind of help for me?” (Austin, TX)

Mary Ann told me, “We have hundreds of billboards across the United States that are there in response to requests by donors. In 2011 PROLIFE Across AMERICA sponsored 6500 Billboards in 42 states. We did the same (6500 in 42 states) in 2010 as well. I just spoke to someone from Florida who is solely responsible for a Billboard we will post for 6 months at $500 per month.” The organization’s goal for 2012 is to have 7000 billboards erected across the nation that would promote life and family, plus spotlight the vital role of fathers.

Proof that God has a sense of humor in the cause for Life

An email from Mary Ann stated: “Who would dream that a simple road sign billboard would work to change hearts and save lives? God can use anything to reach the hearts of those He loves.”

Mary Ann Kuharski

And what does Mary Ann say was God’s joke? “He used a housewife with NO advertising background or skills to help launch this outreach!” And she talks about how this outreach was started around a kitchen table–which I’m assuming is a mighty big kitchen table. Mary Ann, who was adopted as an infant, and her husband John have 13 children, six of whom are adopted and of mixed races with “special needs.” And the grandbabies keep coming (“God’s reminder of His love,” she wrote).

The Kuharskis are parishoners at St. Charles Borromeo in Minneapolis and active members of the Knights of Columbus. Mary Ann has been the recipient of many awards including The Catholic Spirit’s “Leading with Faith,” The Catholic Daughters of the Americas’ “Catholic Woman of the Year” and “The Inspirational Award” from The United Catholic Music and Video Association. Mary Ann is a speaker and author, and she also writes a popular column about family life issues in The Catholic Servant.

Examples of beautiful fundraising efforts

In 2011 PROLIFE Across AMERICA raised over one million dollars. Where does the funding come from for these life-saving billboards? Mary Ann explained:

  • High schoolers in Des Moines did a fundraiser to bring PROLIFE Across AMERICA billboards to Des Moines.
  • Annandale/Maple Lake, MN – a group of Homeschoolers came to our office to present a check. The entire amount went for Billboards in that area.
  • Witchita, KS.–There is a teacher there who encourages his class to do a fundraiser every year. It’s the only one in the area – up for a entire year – thanks to those students.
  • Nativity School, St. Paul – every year teacher Ginny Sullivan sends money from her students to sponsor a billboard. I believe they did a lemonade stand one year. (Through the Archdiocese, Mrs. Sullivan was named a “Champion for Life” recently.)
  • St. Paul, MN – the billboard located near the new Planned Parenthood abortion building is entirely sponsored by one anonymous donor and Church group.
  • Robbinsdale, MN – the billboard there is also sponsored for an entire year (as is the one above) thanks to Sacred Heart Church, CCW and individuals from that area.

Thanks Mary Ann and the staff and volunteers at PROLIFE Across AMERICA for the beautiful work that you do by educating all of us. Obviously, these billboards are successful in helping people to embrace life. For more information about the organization, or for information about donating to “The Billboard People” please visit their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Kathy Schneeman

After graduating from The College of St. Thomas, I taught at Nativity in St. Paul until our oldest was just about born in the classroom (What a great lesson on life that would have been for my students!) I then became a stay-at-home-mom while teaching religious education classes and working very part time at UST. Recently, I served as the Archdiocese's Life Coordinator in the Office for Marriage, Family and Life until twins arrived (I was almost 43!) When I have a few minutes of quiet time, I like to run, eat chocolates, scones and Mexican food (that's why I run), read, and have a beverage with my husband at night. We have a whopping nine kids (yes...same husband and same wife; we get that question a lot!) and we attend St. Joseph's in West St. Paul--where we first met when we were in grade school.

View all posts by Kathy Schneeman
  • Sharon

    Thanks for this story and the reminder that big things can start at a kitchen table!