Gabby Muñoz’s Babies are Beautiful campaign
“It all started when I watched the movie ‘Unplanned’ with my family,” said Gabriella (Gabby) Muñoz. “Unplanned” is based on the memoirs of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, who changed her opinions about abortion after a life-changing experience. “The movie truly opened my eyes to the world around me,” Gabby said.
“I needed to do something,” Gabby said. Although she felt the need to proactively promote life, she did not know what that something was. She finally confided in her mom, while riding in the car to her grandparents’ house, that she wanted to do something to help mothers and their babies. She was looking for ideas to express the passion that was in her heart.
Her mother mentioned her involvement in a baby bottle project in a past parish and wondered if Gabby might be interested in pursuing that idea. Gabby thought it was a great idea and started to put this suggestion into action.
First, she needed a name for this pro-life project. A few months before she started to assemble the project, she attended the Wisconsin March for Life in Madison. She wanted to make a poster for the march to show her pro-life conviction. She decided to look online for ideas. “I found one that said ‘Babies are Beautiful,’” she said. Recalling this poster, Gabby said, “I instantly knew this would be the name of the campaign. It really draws attention to the fact that babies are truly beautiful and wonderful. A powerful, positive message of respect for life.”
Babies are Beautiful: A powerful, positive message of respect for life.
Now that Gabby had a name for her campaign, she began exploring how to make this slogan become reality. She found out about the Hope Life Center in Wausau. They provide services for mothers and mothers-to-be and partner with churches in the area to achieve their mission. Gabby contacted Jack Hoogendyk, director of the center, about her interest in starting a baby bottle project at St. Paul Parish in Mosinee, which did not have such a program. As it turned out, Hope Life Center had Operation Baby Bottle projects at other parishes. Jack agreed to help Gabby with her baby bottle project at St. Paul Parish.
Gabby runs the baby bottle project during Lent. The project consists of four steps: Gabby asks people to 1) pick up a baby bottle as they leave church, 2) fill the bottle with coins, bills or checks, 3) return the bottles at the end of Lent and 4) Gabby brings the bottles to the Hope Life Center. Wanting to advertise the project as much as possible, she makes announcements after Mass during Lent about the baby bottle project. She places notices in the bulletin, makes posters and displays them. She hopes to draw attention to the project and the sanctity of human life and the need for supporting people who are served by the Hope Life Center.
Jack said that Mary Sawyer, who oversees Operation Baby Bottle at the Hope Life Center, got a request from Gabby for 200 bottles the first year she ran it. “That blew our minds. That is a lot of bottles. Most churches ask for 20 or 50, maybe 100,” said Jack. The second year Gabby asked for 250. In the two years that Gabby has run the project, the parishioners of St. Paul Parish have been extremely generous, donating about $15,000. Most parishes collect a fraction of that amount.
Jack was very grateful for the generosity of the St. Paul parishioners. He believes the success of the project is because of the passion Gabby, a young person, brings to a cause she believes in—that life is a precious gift from God and needs to be respected. This passion is not lost on the people of St. Paul Parish. Many refer to Gabby as “the pro-life girl.”
Gabby shares this surreal story about the first year of the baby bottle project. “We took the bottles and spread them out as we started to count the donations. There were about 200. I put my hand in the middle of the table, completely at random, and picked up a bottle. I opened it and inside were 10 $100 bills. One parishioner gave this anonymously. I was completely overjoyed and, as you could imagine; I was crying hysterically!”
Gabby is currently a senior attending Mosinee High School. She enjoys life. “I am involved in many extracurricular activities. I am a three-sport athlete. I like playing basketball, soccer and running cross-country. I am the president of the National Honors Society at my high school and participate in community service opportunities. I also really enjoyed taking a child development course,” she said.
Following graduation, Gabby plans to attend St. Norbert College in De Pere. She wants to double major in political science and psychology. Her dream job would be to become a pro-life activist and offer counseling to post-abortive mothers.
Gabby shared her favorite prayer:
A Prayer for the Helpless Unborn
Heavenly Father, in Your love for us, protect against the wickedness of the devil, those helpless little ones to whom You have given the gift of life. Touch with pity the hearts of those women pregnant in our world today who are not thinking of motherhood. Help them to see that the child they carry is made in Your image—as well as theirs—made for eternal life. Dispel their fear and selfishness and give them true womanly hearts to love their babies and give them birth and all the needed care that a mother alone can give. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever, Amen.
With Gabby planning to go to St. Norbert’s next fall, Jack was a little apprehensive about what would become of Gabby’s “Babies are Beautiful” pro-life project at St. Paul Parish. Gabby’s enthusiasm and passion will be missed. However, Gabby has several apprentices in mind to take over the campaign and added, “I will only be one-and-a-half hours away.”
According to Jack, women come to Hope Life Center seeking answers to questions when they think they might be pregnant and it was not planned. Sometimes, it is out of desperation because they do not know where to turn. A search on the internet, the recommendation of a friend, minister or priest puts them in touch with the center. Sometimes they have decided to have an abortion, but in the back of their mind they feel uncomfortable about that prospect. They wonder if there are other options and what they might be.
Making an Impact
Clients have told Jack they could not have made it through the difficult decisions without the help of the Hope Life Center. They comment on the welcoming atmosphere and the understanding support they receive. It is important to note that the center does not offer abortion services or referrals. They do offer factual, medically accurate education on each type of procedure to help women decide what is right for them.
The services that Hope Life Center provides do not cost anything to those in need. They rely on donations to keep the doors open to all. Gabby’s project is a shining example of how one young person’s enthusiasm, passion and leadership enables people of her parish to financially support the programs of the Hope Life Center.
Gabby likes to quote her confirmation saint, Mother Teresa, when thinking about children and the sacredness of life: “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
Story and photography by Robert Rogers
Published in the January 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine