HOWARD — When Angela Prill first heard about the Biking for Babies ride, she knew that she had to be a part of it.
Nick VandeHey, a cousin, who made his first ride in 2018, introduced her to the apostolate. The mission of Biking for Babies is to raise funds and awareness for centers that help women in crisis pregnancies.
“My son, MJ (Matthew James, 2) was originally a twin. We went in, probably around nine weeks, and there were two heartbeats,” explained Prill. “We went in for our next ultrasound and there was only one heartbeat. Between that experience and what was going on with (late-term abortion) laws, all of that, it really called me to do something about it, to be an active part of the solution.
“The loss of a child and how real that is; I can only imagine for women who have abortions how they must feel forever after that,” she added. “I knew it was something I had to do and it did not leave my heart for at least two years.”
Prill’s passion for cycling also fueled her interest. She had completed a few triathlons and, in 2015, took part in a half Ironman competition in Door County.
“After we had kids, it was harder to go to a gym, so I bought one of the Peloton bikes, so I was getting more into that,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m biking a lot, maybe I should think about doing this.’”
Prill joined the Northern Route team as a cyclist this year. Biking for Babies routes traditionally cover 600 to 800 miles across the country over a six-day period with the four teams converging on the final day at the Celebration of Life in St. Louis. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 teams all rode six different daily routes across Wisconsin from their base at Camp Tekakwitha in Shawano.
“It was harder than I thought it would be,” said Prill. “I did a couple 100-mile (training) routes, but I always took the day before and day after off. This was every day. You are not sleeping in your own bed and we were up fairly late because we did virtual events at night. You are up by 4 (a.m.) and hitting the road by 5 (a.m.).”
On July 13, the first day of the ride, Prill experienced knee pain to the point that she was nearly in tears.
“Every pedal stroke it was hurting,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is horrible. It’s the first day and I’m going to have to sit out.’”
She persevered through the day. Team members attended Mass each evening, so she turned to prayer for her physical challenge.
“I just said, ‘Lord, I want to finish this, but it’s up to you. I’m taking this (Eucharist), go where you need to go.’ Honestly, I had a little bit of knee pain the next day and then it went away. I finished the whole thing,” explained Prill.
The team dynamic was also helpful, she said. Prill credits the leadership of Aubrie Faust, a recent St. Norbert College graduate, and Jack Mannenbach, a St. Norbert student, who served as route leaders for the Northern team. The support crew also played a vital role, she added.
“The support crew kept us alive,” she said. “They were cheerleaders; they were our map to tell us where to turn, made sure we were nourished.”
Prill recalls one day when the group effort helped her when she was struggling with fatigue. She was able to draft behind the cyclist in front of her.
“I had a really hard time with that, because most of my training was by myself,” she said. “I kept hearing ‘trust, trust, trust.’ I just did. I probably had a chunk of eight miles where I barely pedaled. I was just in the middle, carried. That’s exactly what I needed to rejuvenate. There were little things all week that made it much more spiritual.”
Prill, who is originally from the Hortonville area, looked forward to destinations in other states that the traditional ride provides, but staying in Wisconsin with a home base had its advantages, she said, including the spiritual opportunities during the evenings. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that one route took her to a special place.
“I was a member of St. Patrick (Parish) in Stephensville out on (Highway) 76,” she said. “I didn’t know where we were going every day, but one day we ended up going right by there. “I said, ‘Can we please stop in?’ It was just so uplifting to be at my home parish where I was baptized, where I was confirmed.”
Biking for Babies team members seek donations in support of women’s centers. Prill, a graduate of Xavier High School in Appleton and Loyola University in Chicago, set a goal of $5,000, which she was worried about meeting. Her donations are now approaching the $12,000 mark.
“I was just persistent. I think that every week I did an update,” she said. “I’m still blown away by it. It makes me want to be much more generous than I’ve ever been before. There are people I haven’t seen since high school and it touched them for whatever reason. It really meant a lot to me.
“My goal was about spreading awareness,” she added. “I wanted people to know about the Vida Clinic in Appleton. I wanted people to know about St. Gianna Clinic in Green Bay.”
Prill remembers her first ultrasound, seeing the heartbeat of her daughter, Quinn, who will soon turn 4.
“No matter what women pick, I think they deserve to see that,” she said. “I would love for every woman to be able to see that baby because you cannot deny that life when you see that. I remember my husband (Matt) and I bursting into tears to actually see that little heartbeat. It’s beautiful.”
The 2020 ride was the 11th for Biking for Babies. Prill, who works in finance at Schneider National, will not be a cyclist in the future, but will remain involved. She accepted an invitation from Nikki Biese, executive director, to serve as director of philanthropy, a position where she will coach team members in fundraising.
“I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, the adrenaline and prayers you get through that week,” said Prill about the 2020 ride. “I got so much out of it.”
To support Biking for Babies or for more information, visit bikingforbabies.com.