Norwin baseball star’s initiative reaches out to pregnant girls

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Ryan Scavnicky’s six hits for the Norwin Knights this season meant more than just giving his team a chance to score runs and win the game.

Scavnicky also was swinging for his Hitting for Hope initiative, which he started last spring to raise money for his program to give a “Love Box” to women facing unexpected pregnancies. Throughout the season, some people pledged to donate money for each hit and others gave a one-time donation.

“It gives me an extra sense of purpose and that feeling that I’m playing for something more than myself,” said Scavnicky, 18, the son of Louis and Stephanie Scavnicky of North Huntingdon.

The Love Box contains an 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 and a “Best Gift Ever” onesie. Amy Ford’s book, “A Bump in Life,” which offers hope to single and pregnant mothers, also is in the box.

“I felt inspired to do something to serve and show love to the women who find themselves with an unexplained pregnancy,” Scavnicky said.

His efforts are supported by the Norwin Knights for Life Club and fellow youth ministry members at Immaculate Conception Church in Irwin.

He was able to raise $9,000, through his hitting and from donations by parishioners with fellow members of his youth group, who explained the project to parishioners at Immaculate Conception and St. Agnes Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, both in North Huntingdon. He intends to continue playing baseball for an American Legion team and pile up more hits.

“This (Hitting for Hope) combines the two things I am passionate about. I’m using my talents to help others,” Scavnicky said, who added the tagline “encouraging life with every swing” to Hitting for Hope.

Scavnicky, who graduated from Norwin on May 28, distributed close to 300 Love Boxes to some pregnancy centers, including the Women’s Choice Network, a facility in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood that describes itself as an alternative to Planned Parenthood. They also gave Love Boxes to the Life-Way Pregnancy Center in Latrobe, Scavnicky said. That organization provides support to women and men facing issues surrounding pregnancy and parenting.

At the end of the summer, Scavnicky said they will use half of the money raised to purchase items to fill more Love Boxes — there is enough for 320 boxes. The items will be ordered, and supporters of Hitting for Hope will get together to assemble and distribute them, Scavnicky said. The remaining money will be donated to the Knights of Columbus’ initiative to obtain an ultrasound machine.

The concept of reaching out to women at pregnancy centers in the area evolved out of Scavnicky’s participation in the Knights for Life Club at Norwin and through the annual March for Life in January. The March for Life is a massive anti-abortion gathering in Washington, D.C., supporting efforts to reverse the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.

Scavnicky started the initiative in 2020, but covid intervened and the PIAA canceled the 2020 baseball season. So instead of racking up hits for the Norwin Knights, he played with other high school players and on travel teams, collecting 16 hits.

He joined with the Rev. John A. Moineau, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, in starting Hitting for Hope. A flyer in the church bulletin helped to publicize his efforts, and he received support from Refuge Church in Manor, Scavnicky said.

“He was really supportive,” Scavnicky said of Moineau.

Scavnicky’s efforts have impressed Susan Cheplic, the regional coordinator of youth ministry for the parish. She complimented his ability to “think outside the box” to create a meaningful and successful project.

“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 amazing on so many levels,” Cheplic said.

Cheplic said the most touching part of this process for her was when Scavnicky and classmate and fellow Knights for Life member Celena Colcombe were sharing what it was like to deliver the Love Boxes to some local pregnancy resource centers.

”They were bubbling with the excitement to see what real, life-changing help was being done in the places that they were supporting. Ryan was able to share multiple stories about how receiving a Love Box changed the life of the young woman who received it,” Cheplic said.

Cheplic said she would like to see the Love Boxes become a continuing part of Knights for Life’s ministry.

”Maybe Ryan’s leadership will inspire other athletes or teens with other talents to step forward and use their talents to be a light to others,” Cheplic said.

Scavnicky said he hopes to continue some form of the Love Boxes project and raise money while studying theology and philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He also wants to continue playing the sport he loves.

“If I have the opportunity to continue the same concept, I would love to,” Scavnicky said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter .

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