As a young boy, one of the things I looked forward to most was summer camp at Sequoia Lake in California. I spent weeks selling toffee peanuts door to door so I could earn enough money for extra weeks at camp. I can still remember some of the counselor’s names, like Cookie and Sunshine; granted I kind of had a crush on Sunshine like every other boy at camp.
When I talk to my son Jaemison at the beginning of summer each year I ask him what he is looking forward to the most and his answer is, without hesitation, Survivor’s Pro-life Training Camp. He is very much an outdoor lover, a kayaker, and an avid swimmer but his eyes light up when we start talking about going to San Francisco to do pro-life activism for 10 days.
Last week I wrote a commentary about my 31 years as a punk rock, pro-life activist and why I have dedicated my life to this work. (http://www.standtrue.com/tattooedprolifepunkrocker/) I know that I am more vocal than most about abortion and use every chance I can to bring it up and challenge the culture of death. Last year after taking Jaemison to camp for just a few days I was excited to see how passionate he became about pro-life. When he returned to school he was determined to wear a pro-life t-shirt almost every day to be a witness for life.
While most youth pro-life programs are designed to just teach young people about this issue and how they can help adults do the fighting, Survivors is a different experience altogether for youth. We don’t just tell them about pro-life and teach them key arguments, we actually train them to be the leaders of today, not the future.
When I started Rock for Life in the 90’s I wanted to create a pro-life outreach young people could take ownership of and that is exactly what Survivors does today. These young people are trained to go out into the streets and not just attend an activist event but to actually run the event. The event leaders, media liaison and team leaders are all young people. When the police arrive to see what is going on the youth are the ones who talk to them and establish guidelines and show the police how our actions are legal and peaceful. When a reporter shows up, it’s one of the youth that talks to them and explains why we are there and what our message is.
With seasoned leaders like Jeff White, Cheryl Conrad, Sue Cyr and myself there to guide them and teach them, they embrace their roles as youth activists. They start to come to us with ideas for outreach, with designs for t-shirts and slogans for signs and sidewalk chalking.
I have watched young girls sidewalk counseling and saving babies outside abortion mills. I have watched my own son talk to the police to point out that there were signs allowing free speech activities at a park where we were set up at and then saw the police reverse their position that we had to leave.
I have had youth interns work for me for more than 20 years and I have seen some of them grow up and start major pro-life initiatives, found a chain of pregnancy resource centers and even run international pro-life campaigns in other countries. I have seen graduates of Survivors Camp go on to do amazing things in the pro-life movement and contribute to some of the most important work in our fight to end abortion.
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We are at a crucial turning point in our nation and investing in young people has never been more important. I truly believe that we will see the end of the Roe v. Wade era in our lifetime and we need a generation that will fight to bring an end to this holocaust once Roe is overturned.
Every age has its evil and we know that abortion is the evil of this age. My song recognizes this truth and is passionate about being part of the generation that abolishes abortion. He knows that silence and apathy breed death and he refuses to be complicit, as thousands of innocent human beings are dying every day in our nation. He understands that he is called to love his neighbor as himself and has chosen to actively do so.
I can honestly not think of a better way to spend 10 days of my summer with my son than in San Francisco standing up for life and making a difference in one of the darkest cities in the world. He has no fear of what anyone thinks about him and cannot wait to board that plane with me on the 23rd of July.
As the Youth Outreach Director of Priests for Life, I am excited to be a part of this amazing adventure for young pro-life activists. I will be at camp for the entire ten days and will be joined by Father Stephen Imbarrato, one of our full-time priests. Father Frank Pavone, our national director, has always supported youth pro-life work and makes sure that PFL is part of making this camp a success.
If you want more information about sending your teenager to Pro-life Camp check out http://www.survivors.la/21st-annual-prolife-bootcamp. It’s only a few days away but it’s not too late to sign up even if it’s just for a portion of camp.