Athlete’s ‘Hitting for Hope’ initiative gets pro-life message out

Athlete’s ‘Hitting for Hope’ initiative gets pro-life message out

By Paul Paterra


IRWN — Ryan Scavnicky wants to make a difference.

It appears the senior at Norwin High School is doing just that with his Hitting for Hope initiative, which he started in the spring of 2020 to provide support and encouragement to women facing unexpected pregnancies.

With every hit he tallies this season for the Norwin baseball team, he will donate one “Love Box” care package to encourage a mother at a local pregnancy center.

“This is my idea to take my talents and use them to serve others, to help others and to glorify God,” Scavnicky said. “I’m pretty sure it was God who placed this desire in my heart to do this.”

Each “Love Box” contains a personal invitation to a church-hosted support group, stories from a parenting mom and birth mom, a letter of hope, a journal with entries encouraging the woman to be fearless, a “Best Gift Ever” onesie, and a copy of the book “A Bump in Life” by Amy Ford, which offers hope to single and pregnant moms.

The 18-year-old parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish in Irwin said he worked with Father John A. Moineau, Pastor, to start his quest in 2020.

“I was struggling with how to get the word out. Someone mentioned to me to reach out to Father John,” Scavnicky recalled. “I talked to him, and the next week he had a flyer in the bulletin and he was passing it out to everyone.”

Scavnicky participated in a baseball league last summer with students from many area high schools and collected 16 hits. He raised more than $5,000 to provide 280 “Love Boxes.”

The pro-life message is important to Scavnicky, who is president of his school’s Knights for Life Club. He has participated in the annual March for Life at Washington D.C., as well as life chains and his school’s “sock wall.”

“We’ll put a baby sock on the wall in the cafeteria for every abortion that happens in an hour,” said Scavnicky, adding that it’s a number that nears 100. “It’s just a way to spread the word.”

Scavnicky and some of his fellow Knights for Life members delivered “Love Boxes” to area pregnancy centers.

“It was nice,” Scavnicky recalled. “We met with some of the directors, some showed us around the centers and showed us what it was like.”

His efforts give Scavnicky a feeling of satisfaction that he is helping people.

“It’s definitely fulfilling,” he said. “It gives me an extra sense of purpose and that feeling that I’m playing for something more than myself.”

Two of Ryan’s biggest supporters have been his parents – Louis and Stephanie Scavnicky. They organized a party last year in which members of Knights for Life and Immaculate Conception parishioners packed the “Love Boxes.”

Christie Smith, Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese, admires Scavnicky and his efforts.

“Ryan is an outstanding young man full of energy and passion for his faith,” Smith said. “He has a true servant’s heart, which has shown through in turning his giftedness in baseball into serving others. He is a true example of a young disciple walking with Christ for youth and adults alike.”

Susan Cheplic, Regional Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the parish, said she has known Scavnicky since he was a quiet eighth-grader, and has enjoyed watching him grow into a strong leader.

“While he still isn’t always the man of the most words, his authenticity of faith and the strength of his action make others want to follow where he leads,” she said.

Cheplic said she is impressed with Hitting for Hope.

“I love that Ryan thought outside the box to create such a meaningful and successful project,” Cheplic said. “During youth ministry, we talk about how we can use our gifts and talents to give glory to God, and this has been such an inspirational way to see a teen step up and do just that. Rather than leave his passion and talent for baseball on the field, he saw a way to use his leadership position as an athlete to do something for the most vulnerable in our society, which is just so mazing on so many levels.”

Scavnicky plans to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville in the fall to study theology and philosophy, as well as play baseball.  

He would like to reach $10,000 this year, but that’s not his priority.

“It’s not about how much, it’s more about the message and being able to help people, serve people and glorify God,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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