Keely Johnson walks across America to honor the value of life

Students making a difference

On May 18, 2016, Newman University junior Keely Johnson started a walk in San Francisco, Calif. On Aug. 15, she and her fellow walkers reached Washington, D.C., where they took part in a pro-life rally.

For Johnson, a theology major from Rockford, Ill., the experience fulfilled a desire she has had since childhood, and instilled in her a purpose that will last the rest of her life.

Ever since Johnson was 7 or 8 years old, she knew she wanted to make a difference and help individuals realize that life has value – especially since doctors had told her parents that her own life had none.

Johnson and a fellow walker, near Dinosaur, Colo.

“When (my parents) were pregnant with my twin and me, the doctors told my parents that I would never be able to walk, talk, or sit on my own,” Johnson said. “They said that I would have to be institutionalized if I even survived birth.”

The doctors recommended an abortion, but her parents chose to place their trust in God.

“My parents could have easily had an abortion and been happy with their one child, but they chose to give me a chance at life,” she said. “Knowing this makes me want to fight for life and to help people realize that every life does have value.”

Johnson’s walk was sponsored by Crossroads Pro-Life of Columbia, Md., to raise awareness of the sanctity and dignity of all human life.

“We spent our summer wearing a shirt that says ‘PRO LIFE’ across the front, walking, praying, and having conversations with people across the country,” Johnson said. “We had two to three people walking at a time, and four to five people on each shift. We kept switching off like this for up to eight hours of walking.”

Each person walked 10 to 15 miles per day, with the goal to get 40 to 50 miles as a group each day, Johnson said.

“We walked in 30 degrees and we walked in 116 degrees.We walked in a downpour and we walked where there was not a cloud in sight. We had a couple of times where a tornado touched down close enough that we could see it. We all made it to a safe place, but every day we never knew what to expect when we woke up.”

The walk had plenty of other challenges, Johnson said.

“My greatest challenges weren’t physical, but more emotional and spiritual,” she said. “It was difficult at times to find time just to pray alone, which had an impact on some of us. There were times when we didn’t get more than two hours of sleep.”

Throughout the experience, however, Johnson said the rewards made up for any difficulties.

“Each day that I walked, I knew I was making a difference in the life of someone that drove past us. Every single time I walked, I waved at every car. It kept me aware of the cars, but more importantly it sent a message of love, even if they responded negatively. At the end of the day, a wave is a wave, and it can be the only good thing someone may experience all day – it may save their life.”

– Sadie Korte ’20

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