December 13, 2011 // Local

Knights support life with sonogram machines

WABASH — The Knights of Columbus are hoping to start a pro-life revolution, one sonogram at a time.

A sonogram is a picture of a baby while it is still in the womb and created with ultrasound or high-frequency sound waves, according to the Web site The Wabash Knights of Columbus Council 2957 has raised funds for a sonogram machine to be placed at the Life Center in Wabash.

“You really can’t even put a price on the good that will come out of that,” said Jim Almeda, past grand knight of the Wabash Knights of Columbus. “… You can’t even begin to imagine the amount of lives that it will save.”

Almeda said it’s estimated that 90 percent of women who see their baby through a sonogram or hear the heartbeat will carry their baby to term, according to officials at the Wabash Life Center, now called Life Choices Medical Clinic as of July. The name change was necessary due to the sonogram machine.

The Wabash Knights began raising funds for a sonogram machine in August 2009. The 115-member chapter at St. Bernard Church holds weekly bingo games, with much of the money going toward charity. Chapter members also held a tenderloin fry, which raised $8,600, and solicited local churches and businesses through letters, raising an additional $13,400. An anonymous donor in Florida who had read about the project gave $30,000. The Lutheran Foundation also donated $9,000 toward the project.

Another incentive for the Knights has been a matching fund program created by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, headquartered in New Haven, Conn. They provided an additional $9,300 for the sonogram machine, bringing the total to $70,300.

Life Choices Medical Clinic was the first in the state to receive a sonogram machine with the help of the national incentive program.

“It’s wonderful,” said Cheryl Meyer, executive director of the Wabash pregnancy help center. “Without the Knights of Columbus this would have been so much harder to accomplish.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, also a Knight, was present on Mother’s Day when Meyer received a check from the national Knights for sonogram machine funds at St. Bernard’s Knights of Columbus hall.

Jeni Friedersdorf, client service manager and former executive director of Life Choices Medical Clinic, also is pleased.

“I’m thrilled it’s actually coming through and I’m seeing it happen,” she said.

“Hopefully more women will be drawn to it and it will attract more women who need our services,” Meyer added.

Life Choices Medical Clinic provides counseling, diapers, prenatal vitamins, baby wipes, baby and maternity clothing, car seats, pregnancy tests and many other items free of charge to clients.

Julie Willmert, a registered nurse at Life Choices since February, spent about a week in Las Vegas, Nev. training on sonogram machines.

“You need a minimum of 50 to 75 supervised scans (to get certified),” she said.

Sarah Carrothers, 24, Wabash, agreed to have a sonogram at Life Choices and be interviewed for this story. The mother of two was 24 weeks into her pregnancy.

“It’s always exciting to see what the baby looks like (through a sonogram),” she said. “It can help you visualize what the baby will look like at nine months.

“It’s definitely a neat tool for the center,” Carrothers said. “… When (new mothers) see that picture, it might change their minds (if they’re considering an alternative). I can’t describe how I feel when I see my baby for the first time.”

Willmert said through the sonogram, mothers are able to see the baby in black and white, take measurements and possibly see the heart beating. Certified nurses can even predict the due date within two to three days after looking at the sonogram.

While the Wabash Knights have already done a lot of work, they haven’t stopped there.

“In July, we started working to place a sonogram at the Matrix Pregnancy Center in Lafayette,” Almeda said. “They received their machine in October and are awaiting the matching funds from the Supreme Council.”

The Wabash Knights are the only Hoosier chapter to place two sonogram machines, he added.

In mid-October, Wabash began partnering with the Granger Knights of Columbus Council 4263 on a “Respect Life Blitz,” Almeda said.

Dick Dornbos, past grand knight and advocate Respect Life coordinator on the Granger council, said the Knights of Columbus believe in respecting life from conception to final burial. This is why working toward the placement of sonogram machines fits in well with their goals.

“We sent 173 letters to the councils in Indiana,” Dornbos said. The Knights also asked for support from community members and others.

“We received gifts from $6 to $2,000,” he said. “… We started in January of this year and it’s probably been an eight-month project.”

The Granger council has been working on fundraising with councils in Notre Dame, downtown Mishawaka, Plymouth, Culver and three in South Bend — downtown, west and south, Dornbos said. The group also has put materials into the hands of bishops meeting at the Indiana Catholic Conference recently.

“We want to make an impact and change the attitude to pro-life in Indiana,” Dornbos said. “There are two abortions per day in St. Joe County, which includes South Bend, Mishawaka and Granger.”

The Women’s Care Center in South Bend will be the fifth pregnancy center to receive a sonogram with help from the Knights.

“Today there are 176 (sonogram) units throughout the U.S. (placed with help by the Knights),” Dornbos said.

On Dec. 2, representatives from the Kolbe Center in Broad Ripple asked for help in getting a sonogram machine, Almeda said. The Wabash Knights are working on finding a local council to sponsor them.

“Our goal is to place 14 machines in the state,” Almeda said. “Broad Ripple would make the sixth.”

Dornbos said the payoff is well worth the work.

“Ultrasounds have prevented (abortions),” he said. “People see that baby and say ‘I’m gonna keep that baby.’ Some say a child is not in their budget. When we (my wife Margie and I) had our third, fourth and fifth child, they were not in our budget. We’re blessed.”

Almeda and Dornbos said they and the Knights are willing to help anyone else in the state interested in bringing a sonogram machine to their local pregnancy help center. Almeda can be reached at (260) 571-5724, while Dornbos can be reached at (574) 271-7853.

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