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Fairfax Knights collect record amount at the March for Life

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At the intersection of 7th and Constitution Avenue during the March for Life, 30 volunteers in white jackets carried buckets and shouted through blow horns, “Get ready to make your donation.” Members of local Knights of Columbus Father Diamond Council No. 6292, they have supported the march since the beginning. For the past three decades they have collected donations — this year they raised a record $46,000. 

The Knights presented a check to Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, in Providence Hall at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax Feb. 21.

"The number most important to us is the 58 million, which is the number of Americans ... lost to abortion." Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life

“I can’t tell you enough how much it helps us,” said Mancini, speaking to the Knights and their families. “We wouldn’t be able to do the March for Life if it weren’t for the Knights of Columbus, and I mean that literally.”

The St. Leo the Great Knights have participated in the march since Nellie Gray, founder of the march, asked for their help in 1974 to marshal attendees in and out of Washington. Ten years later, they began collecting donations to help offset the growing costs of the march. Their annual average is $22,000, and to date they’ve raised more than $725,000.

After this year’s march, the Knights counted the money from their buckets at Providence Hall; Grand Knight Keith Morrison said the scene looked like a casino. 

Mancini said the donations are a good indicator of the march’s crowd size. Last year, the donation dropped to $17,000, after a blizzard prevented many from coming. The largest donation prior to this year was more than $31,000 in 2013, when an estimated 400,000 to 650,000 people attended.

“We’ve totally surpassed that this year,” said Mancini.

This year’s donation will fund an estimated 20 percent of the costs for the 2018 march, including park services, audio and visual equipment, internet, flooring and staging. 

“Almost $50,000 will go a long way,” said Mancini. “And it may cover expenses we didn’t anticipate having.”

An unexpected expense this year was for increased security because of Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance to the crowd.

“It was historic,” said Mancini. “Up until this year, the highest level of the White House that we ever had was deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.”

Mancini approached Pence about speaking at the march at the vice presidential debate in Farmville. He expressed interest, and no matter the outcome of election the invitation remained open. Weeks before the march, he confirmed he would attend.

“Although there were all sorts of Secret Service details, we couldn’t let anyone know. It needed to be top secret until the night before,” she said.

Mancini credits the success of the march this year to a variety of reasons: the new administration, good weather, the March for Life’s new media firm, social media, collaboration with Evangelical Christians, the Women’s March and the attendance of Pence.

“Normally, it takes one hour and 30 minutes for the march to pass,” said Herb Zimmerman, a Knight from the Father Diamond Council. “This year it was like an hour and 50 minutes.”

“It’s a lot better than last year with the snow,” said Don Kehoe, March for Life Treasurer and Knight from the Father Diamond Council.

The March for Life organization, which includes five staffers, has an annual budget of more than $1 million.  Each year the organization works on legislation, social media, mainstream media and education. About $350,000 of the budget is used directly for the march. 

“It was such an exciting time to be there. I think that the March for Life is taking great steps in using social media,” said Zimmerman.

Though the exact crowd size may never be known, Mancini said, “The number most important to us is the 58 million, which is the number of Americans … lost to abortion.”  

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017