A bright and sunny Saturday morning drew people to turn up in an effort to raise money for pregnancy care by participating in a walk across Ball State’s campus.

First Choice organized its 33rd annual “Walk for Life” fundraiser for the community and the people it serves.

“This is the biggest turnout we’ve had in years.” said Lisa Miller, First Choice’s chief executive officer, grateful for the weather that morning.

According to its website, First Choice is a pregnancy resource center, originally founded in 1986 as Heart to Heart, providing care to women in Muncie facing unplanned pregnancies.

The walk, which started out as a bike-a-thon in the previous years, raised money to support the Muncie’s First Choice center and programs it provides for the community. 

Miller said the organization raised about $17,000 of their $25,000 goal the night before the event. It raised $24,000 in 2018 and $22,000 in 2017.

Doors opened 8:30 a.m. for registration at the Westminster Presbyterian Church and participants were given breakfast from IHOP before the walk began 9:30 am. 

Leslie Hatcher, director of the Muncie center and Cindy Costerion, board of directors chairperson, joined Miller sharing stories of the organization's success and other success stories within the community.

Hatcher spoke about Brooke Adams, a single mom who got involved with the organization.

“It was sort of a scary situation. I wasn’t ready, and I was not in a good relationship at the time,” Adams said.

She went to First Choice to take advantage of the resources to care for her son. Hatcher shared that Adams has been with First Choice for over three years and has even become a volunteer. Many clients who enter First Choice’s program go on to work with the organization either as student interns, volunteers, or mentors.

“What’s great about Brooke is that she saw a need to give back,” Hatcher said. “It’s like coming full circle.” 

Hatcher spoke about the programs provided by First Choice. Programs like pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, parent education and mentoring for preborn to three-and-half-year-old children, are available to mothers free of cost. 

Mothers can receive material assistance with buying diapers, clothes and any materials food stamps cannot buy. Parents can earn “Baby Bucks” by attending the classes provided by the organization.

“They can go shopping with that...and it really helps them to be the best parent they can be,” Miller said. 

She said clients can earn a free wooden crib and a mattress through First Choice's Parent Care program. Through its Creating Positive Relationships program, it also offers health classes to students from fifth grade to high school teaching them about building and maintaining positive relationships, along with other sex education information.

Miller said there are often misconceptions on what the organization stands for. 

“There's no judgement. I'm post abortive. I got pregnant as a teenager, so I am very passionate about what we do,” she said. 

Many women who work with the organization have similar stories to that of Miller’s and empowerment and education is the goal with all their clients, she said.

“We are very careful to explain to a young woman all of her options — abortion, parenting and adoption — and then just explain with good, scientific, medically accurate information, what is involved with all of their options,” Hatcher said. “The decision is hers.”

Hatcher shared that clients have the opportunity to provide feedback and score the organization and Hatcher invites questions from anyone that has them.

“We want to let people know what we are and what we aren’t,” she said.

Contact Britney Kendrick with comments at bskendrick@bsu.edu.