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A friendly face at the county fair

Sept. 12, 2014 - “I just found out I am pregnant.”

A girl who looked about 16 had come up to the booth, hoping to purchase a prolife bracelet. Her mother, with a pained expression, shook her head as the girl discreetly whispered her news to the volunteer behind the table. The girl’s father simply turned and walked away.

As the educational coordinator for the Right to Life of Michigan Lansing Resource Center, Laura Hammes is often called upon to host booths at events and conferences. Her experience at the Ingham County Fair in Mason on July 29 turned out to be a very different, but far more rewarding experience than past events. The young pregnant girl was just one of her several moving experiences at the fair.

For 15 years, Laura has worn multiple prolife hats, in her spare time serving on the board of her local Right to Life of Michigan affiliate, Ingham County Right to Life. She recently resigned from the board, but it clearly didn’t last. As former Right to Life of Michigan president Jane Muldoon often said, “once you’re in, you’re in for life!”

The person who usually organizes Ingham County Right to Life’s annual fair booth was injured in a car accident and needed someone to take over most of her duties. As a former board member Laura had assisted with setting up their booth for years, but now she found herself a volunteer, running the show and staffing the table.

One of Laura’s friends talked to her about a new idea for drawing people to their booth. Typically the booth revolved around having educational flyers and brochures on display, but the friend thought children’s games and prizes for the winners would be a big hit.

“I presented the games idea to the board,” Laura said, of her recent colleagues. “They thought they would try to do something different this year.”

Laura found out how big of a hit something different would be.

After spending an afternoon of work and about $50 dollars, three children’s games had been created from scratch: ring toss, pin the tail on the donkey, and a lollipop drawing. The ring toss used giant baby bottles instead of posts, and the pin the tail on the donkey was restyled “feed the baby,” featuring a baby bottle with Velcro instead of a sharp pin, certainly a safer game for crowded fairs.

The final ingredient for an incredibly successful fair was putting the electronic prolife quizboard front and center in their booth, rather than off to the side as it had been in the past. It turned out to be a potent combination with the children’s games, as well as the customary fetal model display.

“The quiz board was a good thing because it gave the parents something to do,” Laura said.

Tuesday was Laura’s day to work the booth, and it was unlike any other day she has worked a prolife booth. The most touching moment was the young pregnant girl who wanted the bracelet. Laura said the girl had to ask her mother for a dollar to purchase it. Despite it being clearly an emotional time for the family, the girl’s mother used one of the fetal models on display to show the rest of their family how big the baby was.

“At that point, I couldn't talk,” Laura said. “With tears in my eyes, I handed the girl a packet of information.”

Laura was amazed at how many parents playing the quizboard started conversations with her while their children threw rings around the bottles and attempted to Velcro a bottle to a giant poster of a hungry baby.

One mother and her two teenage daughters also saw the fetal models and began talking about them. Laura said the mother turned to her and told her how both of her daughters tested positive for Down Syndrome after an amniocentesis test, yet neither had the condition. The mother said her child’s first doctor recommended having an abortion, but thankfully the mother flatly refused on the spot.

Another mother began playing with the quizboard while her daughter played the children’s games. Laura said she got the first question wrong; the mother was in disbelief that Roe v. Wade had essentially legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Laura talked with her about the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court cases, and used a fetal model to demonstrate the size of a 12-week baby. Laura said the woman had a shocked look on her face.

“I just had a feeling that she was post-abortive,” Laura said. “Then she said she had saved a niece's baby by telling her not to abort, that it would not be good for her.”

After boasting to his wife that he would ace them all, a Lansing fireman also failed the first question. Laura said both were shocked that abortion would be allowed up to birth. The wife casually said she could not understand how a woman could abandon a baby in the trash, prompting Laura to tell her about the recent rescue in Newaygo County of a baby literally abandoned to die. Surprisingly the fireman had never heard of Michigan’s Safe Delivery Act, which allows mothers to confidentially surrender newborns to emergency personnel, including firemen, rather than abandoning them.

“I didn’t have anything on the safe haven law, I wished I had,” Laura said.

Tables create a physical limit to the amount of educational material that can be displayed, always leaving volunteers wishing they brought that one perfect flyer for a particular situation. More important, however, are the knowledgeable prolife volunteers who make the effort to reach out to the public at fairs and other events, helping those in need of information and sometimes consoling those facing uncertainty or a past tragedy.

Volunteers are the fuel that helps drive the prolife movement. If you would like to volunteer at a prolife booth or other activity to help spread a prolife message, sign-up online here.

For tips to help make your next prolife fair booth a success, download our Fair Booth Ideas flyer.

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