APPLETON — Nick Vande Hey received an invite for a retreat in early July, but he was hesitant to accept.
“Something was on my heart that this may not be the right thing,” he said.
The right thing was about to come along.
Vande Hey, who will be a junior in the fall at St. Norbert College in De Pere, was planning to compete in a triathlon, but he needed a bicycle.
“I was looking for a bike,” he said. “I prayed about it for probably three months. Kevin Biese called and said, ‘I know that you’ve heard that I do Biking for Babies. What are the odds that you would be interested?’”
Biese, a Kaukauna native who currently lives in Madison, has been active in Biking for Babies charity rides since 2011. The mission of Biking for Babies is to raise awareness in the fight against abortion and financial support for pregnancy resource centers.
Biese offered Vande Hey his bicycle and asked him to consider the northern ride, which will begin in Green Bay on July 9 and end at the “Celebration of Life” on July 14 in St. Louis.
“Kevin babysat me when I was a kid. We go way back,” said Vande Hey, 20. “It turned out the ride is the same week as the other retreat. I said, ‘You just gained another rider. I don’t even need to pray about it.’ It was an answered prayer. It was an opportunity to really stand up for what I believe in and join the pro-life fight.”
Biking for Babies asks each team member to raise $2,000. Vande Hey has set a goal of $3,500 in support of WomanKind Medical Clinic in Appleton.
“All their services are 100 percent free,” said Vande Hey. “They provide ultrasounds, counseling, STD testing. They take care of the child until age 3. They help with budgeting. The women can shop for diapers. They earn money by taking classes. They really provide throughout the whole birth process.
“I toured WomanKind,” he added. “The coolest part was meeting the volunteers, the people who are hands-on, providing for women. I’m doing this ride for a week plus training. These are people volunteering every day.”
Vande Hey was involved in an accident on his first training ride.
“A guy backed out in front of me and I hit him at about 20 miles an hour,” he explained. “I snapped my bike in half, Kevin’s bike. I cracked my helmet. The frame was all bent. The bike was completely totaled.”
Fortunately, Vande Hey, a member of Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, suffered only minor injuries. He purchased a bicycle online and resumed training.
“I was a little timid around cars on the road when I got back out,” he said. “It served as a motivator that there are going to be obstacles, there is going to be adversity, but when you are doing something for a cause, it’s worth it.”
Vande Hey was an all-state defensive back, power lifter and standout sprinter at Xavier High School in Appleton. He placed first in his division (20-24) in the Aurora BayCare Triathlon held June 3 in Green Bay. Even with his athletic background, he expects biking 575 miles to be his most difficult physical challenge, as well as a mental, spiritual and emotional challenge.
“I played football my whole life,” he said. “Kevin told me that it’s just like the fourth quarter, but your fourth quarter is eight hours of biking.”
Four cyclists will make up the Biking for Babies team for the northern ride. Biese will be traveling the route in a vehicle, serving as the support person.
“With three kids, it became difficult to find the time to train,” said Biese, “so Nikki (his wife) and I decided it was probably time for me to hang up my cleats and take on a new role this year.
“I am in my third year as the training specialist,” he added. “My job is to make sure all of our riders are spiritually, mentally and physically prepared to endure this very difficult ride. Nikki is in her first year as the route leader coordinator. She has been in charge of making the routes, advising and delegating jobs to our route leaders.”
“Kevin told me that (the ride) is the deepest he’s ever been in prayer,” said Vande Hey. “I took the Biking for Babies logo and put it on my bike. Whenever I’m tired I can look down as a constant reminder to keep going and why I’m doing it.”
The ride is another faith opportunity, said Vande Hey, who serves as president of Frassati, a men’s group he founded at St. Norbert that is rooted in the Catholic faith. Vande Hey also serves on the board of directors for Our Lady of Victory Sports Camps. In mid-June he served as a mentor/coach at the organization’s second annual football camp held at St. Norbert.
“It’s a daily challenge to live out my faith,” he said. “I pray when I’m training. I’ve been praying for women in crisis pregnancies, for families, even for those donating; offering it up for something bigger.”
To support Biking for Babies or for more information, visit www.bikingforbabies.com.