By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — When Kirk Walden was 44, his wife Jennifer told him she was pregnant. “I wasn’t happy and I’m a pro-life guy.” The writer of Pregnancy Help News and advancement specialist with Heartbeat International said all kinds of thoughts were going through his head. “I’ll be 104 when this kid graduates from high school. If she miscarries, it will be okay.” He already had three teenagers from his first marriage.
“I had everything going for me, but I was not happy. Then the Lord reminded me that he had given me a gift.” Walden shared his story with pro-life supports of the Women’s Choice Center during a luncheon and dinner Sept. 29 at the Waterfront Convention Center. Around 260 people in total attended.
He and his wife welcomed their son Josh into the world in August 2007. Walden said he did not realize the gift he had received until Josh stopped breathing several times in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sixteen months later, “We found out Jake was on the way.”
A native of Alabama, Walden dreamed of being a pro golfer and worked as a professional golfer for a few months. At age 18, he entered Auburn University. As the 1980 presidential election approached, he examined the issues but not so much the issue of the sanctity of life. After hearing a talk on the subject, “I knew I needed to be a part of this.” He got involved in politics.
At age 28, he worked with a pregnancy center in Auburn where he was asked to apply for the director’s position. He did not see himself as a director, but applied. During his third interview, he remembers being asked about his weaknesses, which he identified as public speaking and asking for money. His audience laughed at the story and he said, “Here I am. It’s a joy and pleasure to speak to you at a fundraiser tonight.”
Walden believes that someday abortion facilities will close because of lack of patient volume. Since 1980, the number of pro-life groups such as the Women’s Choice Center have continued to grow stronger as the number of abortion facilities nationwide has declined, he said.
Sharing some more personal insights, he said his first wife left him and their three children, then ages 7, 5 and 3. She told him she was going to California for two weeks for a break. Ten days later, she called to say she was not returning home. “Overnight I became a single dad. I broke down. I was angry with God.” But God sent people into his life to build him up again. Church and community members stepped up to help him out. “They told a broken man he still had value.”
In 2005, he met his future wife, Jennifer, the daughter of a pastor. “Her dad loved my children (then ages 16, 14 and 12). He felt like they were his own grandchildren.”
Walden and Jennifer married in 2006. “My kids got a mother.” Today, the Waldens have five children ages 10 to 31. “Children are a gift. We may not recognize it until later.”
Walden encouraged the pro-life advocates to support the ministry of the Women’s Choice Center, and made a pledge to show his support for the center’s work.
The two programs opened with a video during which Bishop Thomas Zinkula blessed the workers, volunteers and those who seek help. He also blessed the food and meal servers. Mary Jones, president of Life and Family Educational Trust that oversees the Women’s Choice Center, welcomed supporters.
A video by Save the Storks featured the center’s staff talking about the center’s history and mission from 1999 to the present. That history includes purchase of the former Planned Parenthood building and moving the Women’s Choice Center into one side of that facility. Dr. Rose Warhank, a family medicine specialist at Genesis Health Group in DeWitt, serves as its medical director. Dr. Julie Schroeder, a board-certified family medicine physician who has practiced in the Quad Cities for more than 20 years, will direct the new medical center. Joining her is Julie Deleon, a medical assistant.
Attendees watched a video featuring the story of a client expressing gratitude for the support she received from the Women’s Choice Center. She chose life over abortion for her son. “I am in a better situation now. They helped open my eyes.”
Linda Rubey, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center, said 2020 has been a challenging year but the center has remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic. “We have changed hearts and have changed lives.” The center is launching a new initiative, she said. The Women’s Choice Center Village programs aim to provide a strong community of loving support and assistance without judgement to walk with expectant mothers and their families.
A weekly gathering place that begins in January will provide a safe place for women to drop in, learn and develop secure and loving relationships. The center also offers a variety of programs on nutrition, parenting, post-abortion healing, relationships, and employment skills, returning to school, financial planning and more. Visit the Women’s Choice Center’s website at www.womenschoicecenter.org or call (563) 332-0475. It is located at 1740 Happy Joe Drive, Suite 2, in Bettendorf.