Love is propelling him onward

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St. Joe grad is walking across country to honor mother and pro-life views.

Tribune Staff Writer

For the past two summers, David Bathon has worked to earn money for college.

Last year, he pushed a broom as a janitor at South Bend’s Holy Family parish.

Before that, the 2003 St. Joseph’s High School graduate washed dishes at the University of Notre Dame.

Bathon, 21, who has completed two years at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, Minn., had every intention of doing something similar this summer. After all, checks for college expenses don’t exactly write themselves.

But in January, a friend told Bathon about the cross-country walk he took in 2004 to advocate a pro-life philosophy.

“He approached me and said I should do it this year,” Bathon said. “Initially I said no, that I couldn’t. Then I thought about it and realized there wasn’t anything greater I could do for the summer.”

The main reason Bathon choose to join the Crossroads Inc. walk across the country was because of his mother.

Kathryn Bathon was pregnant with David when she was diagnosed with throat cancer. Doctors told her and David’s father, Charlie, they would have a better chance of fighting the disease if she aborted the pregnancy and started treatment immediately.

The Bathons decided to go through with the pregnancy. After David was born, Kathryn’s cancer spread. She died when David was 3.

“I was pretty young, but I have a couple memories of her here and there,” David said. “I remember the day she passed away. She told my dad to let me and my sister know she loved us. I remember saying ‘Why are you telling us this. I know she loved us.’ ”

In May, David Bathon flew to Seattle for the first time in his life. It was there he met up with the other college-aged people who committed themselves to walking across the country to exercise their pro-life views.

The walk from Seattle is one of three walks this summer organized through Crossroads Inc. Walks also began from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The plan is for each to conclude Aug. 6 in Washington, D.C., at the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building for a pro-life rally.

Bathon and his group began their walk on May 23, all wearing T-shirts with big letters across the front reading “Pro Life.”

The group usually consists of about 12 people who live out of a motor home. Some have temporarily left the walk at various times and locations.

Bathon, for example, will miss five days of the walk this week to attend his older sister’s wedding here in Indiana. He will rejoin his Crossroads group Sunday in Detroit.

The walk is scheduled to come through South Bend Tuesday morning. Charlie Bathon plans to join his son.

“Even though it is a crazy wedding week for our first daughter,” Charlie Bathon said, “I’m making time to go out and walk with him Tuesday. Our whole family is so proud of him.”

Since leaving Seattle, walking is done in two separate 10-hour shifts, one during the day and one during the night.

“We walk everyday, rain or shine,” David Bathon said. “At night we’ll always have at least one guy walking, just for safety concerns. We always walk with reflective gear and flashlights. And we pray a lot.”

In Montana, Bathon admits, the group was a little worried about grizzly bears but never had any problems. Bathon said the group didn’t see its first bear until last week in Wisconsin.

“That was just a black bear,” Bathon said. “Those are pretty harmless.”

Walking shifts usually consist of six walkers. In addition to a motor home, the group is also traveling with a van. Three or four walkers will start walking together. The other three or four walkers in the shift will drive the van five miles ahead, park it and wait.

Once the walkers reach the van, they will switch and those in the van will start walking.

“We’ve got it down to almost exactly an hour and 15 minutes for five miles,” Bathon said. “We usually average about four miles per hour.”

While members of either shift are walking, members of the other shift drive ahead in the motor home about 40 miles to sleep, eat and rest.

When the walkers and the van driver reach the motor home, it is time for a shift change.

The group usually walks along the sides of highways.

“We get a lot of honks and a lot of thumbs up,” Bathon said. “Every once in a while we also get some thumbs down and even some fingers, but I’ve found it’s about 10-to-1 positive (responses) to negative.”

Most mornings the group will start its day with a Mass at a local church. On weekends the group rests and speaks to churches about its journey and cause.

Bathon said the group must ultimately finance its travels through donations and gifts along the way.

As the day shift walked through Illinois Friday afternoon, Bathon and the rest of the night shift drove the motor home into downtown Chicago.

For him, thinking about his mother and his cause these past six weeks is worth more to him than a summer job could ever pay.

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