Gianna Jessen's life has been anything but easy. "I am here tonight by the grace of God," Jessen told the crowd that filled the capacity of Macon County Park Expo Center.
Jessen was the keynote speaker for the fundraising banquet last Saturday sponsored by Ray of Hope Pregnancy Care Ministries of Macon and Shelby Counties. Jessen survived a failed, late term saline abortion attempt by her teenage mother and came into the world two months premature.
"I was never supposed to be born," said Jessen who suffers from cerebral palsy. "Doctors predicted that I would never even be able to lift my head."
Jessen told the crowd that through her struggles she made two important decisions that changed her life forever. "I decided to give myself to Christ and that I am not a victim," she said.
Jessen, 36, now shares her inspirational life story with others as a pro life advocate and speaker.
Ray of Hope director Jenni Rash said that more than 400 attended the event on Saturday to hear Jessen and show their support for Ray of Hope.
"Our goals for the evening were to raise funds for Ray of Hope and to get the pro life message out to the people," said Rash.
Rash said that approximately $14,000 in donations were collected at the banquet Saturday night. That total does not include amounts that were pledged for future donations. The money raised will go to help Ray of Hope's free services which include self pregnancy tests, educational information, mentoring, Mommy and Baby Boutique, community referrals and the Earn While You Learn program (EWYL).
EWYL is a program where parents can earn "Mommy Money" or "Daddy Dollars" by viewing instructional videos on different topics including pregnancy, meeting the needs of the baby after birth, discipline and life skills.
Ray of Hope clients attend classes one day a week and may use the credits they earn to purchase necessities needed to raise their children from a wide array of new and like new items.
The center is dedicated to promoting physical, emotional and spiritual assistance to expectant mothers and support parents by helping to meet the most basic needs of infants and toddlers.
Ray of Hope Pregnancy Care Ministries is a charitable organization that runs solely on the generosity of others through monetary and tangible donations.
The center is always in need of donations of items including diapers, wipes, clothing from newborn to 2T, blankets, bottles, bottle liners, diaper bags, baby lotion and shampoo, diaper bags, pack-n-plays, strollers and money.
They are located at 710 South Missouri Street, in Macon. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They may be reached at 660-395-8099.
Page 2 of 2 - Monetary donations may be sent to Ray of Hope, P.O. Box 364, Macon, MO 63552.