Participants in this year’s March for Life Chicago will notice lots of changes, starting with a new venue, as the annual event is attracting more people, and a convention featuring pro-life ministries and other exhibitors.
The march, with the theme, “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman,” will kick off with a rally at 1 p.m. Jan. 11 at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
It is preceded by a youth rally hosted by the Archdiocese of Chicago starting at 8 a.m. at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave., the site of the convention. The Mass for Life will be held at the hotel at 4 p.m., following the march, and the evening will feature a banquet and swing dance party.
Speakers at the outdoor rally include Cardinal Cupich, Pat McCaskey of the Chicago Bears and Dawn Fitzpatrick, March for Life Chicago president and senior coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity.
Fitzpatrick said the march made the move from Federal Plaza, where it has been since 2014, to the larger Daley Plaza because organizers wanted to be able to accommodate larger crowds.
“Last year we were at a crossroads,” she said, with a crowd of more than 8,000 people stretching the limits of Federal Plaza. “We’d like to break that 10,000-person ceiling this year.”
The march itself will travel from Daley Plaza to the Congress Plaza hotel, ending just before the 4 p.m. Mass for Life.
The day-long convention is intended to both attract more people and give them something to do. The convention, on the ground floor of the Congress Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave., will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., except during the march and rally. Convention-goers can register for a free fast pass to get in quickly to see the exhibits and meet fellow pro-life activists.
Kevin Grillot, executive director of WeDignify, formerly Students for Life of Illinois, said it’s especially significant that the march is drawing pro-life advocates from all over the Midwest to Illinois, which has more permissive abortion laws than most of the states around it.
WeDignify is organizing the convention, and Grillot said he hopes those who visit the exhibits find ways to continue their pro-life activism throughout the year.
“If people are looking for something other than the march they can do, this will offer that,” he said. “They can learn about Biking for Babies and so many of the other organizations. They can also come inside, have something warm to drink and connect with the other marchers,” he said.
Fitzpatrick agreed that the convention will allow for more networking among participants.
“This is a great entry point into the movement,” she said. “And even for people who are involved, churches can get some ideas of new things they can do.”
The banquet features speaker Claire Culwell, who survived when her mother had an abortion. Her twin did not survive. The swing dance party that follows is aimed at, but not limited to, young adults.
“We really wanted to offer activities for all different age groups,” Grillot said.
The Chicago march has generally had high participation rates by youth and young adults, Fitzpatrick said, but participants range from children to people in their 90s.
For more information on March for Life Chicago, visit marchforlifechicago.com.
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