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 | By Kiki Hayden | Correspondent

Knight Hike raises awareness, funds for pro-life charities

One Thursday at 4 a.m., Kim Pritchard was praying during adoration at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in College Station. He had an idea, but he wasn’t sure if God wanted him to go through with it.

“Suddenly somebody taps me on the shoulder,” he recalled. “And he says, ‘Here, I want you to have this rosary, it’s from Fatima.’” The shoulder-tapper was Pritchard’s adoration partner. “It was just such perfect timing.”

He talked with his family, his fellow knights, and Father Albert Laforet, his pastor, and Deacon Dave Mayes about the idea. They were all supportive.

So, Pritchard committed to hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise awareness and funds for local pro-life charities. Currently, Pritchard is hiking the 2,200-mile trail from Georgia to Maine, carrying his needs in a backpack — all while praying for and supporting Catholic Charities of Central Texas’ St. Gabriel’s Pregnancy and Parenting Program, Elizabeth House Maternity Home, and the Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley.

The goal

When he retired in 2020, Pritchard had set a goal to hike the Appalachian Trail. He also increased his involvement with the Knights of Columbus at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. After hearing a pro-life talk at the March for Life in 2022, he thought to himself, “Wait a minute, maybe I can couple those two things: hiking the Appalachian Trail to get into shape, but can I also use it to raise awareness for pro-life?”

Pritchard is no stranger to the Appalachians, where he was born and raised. After serving for 12 years as a forest ranger in West Virginia, Pritchard worked as an environmental manager for steel companies until his retirement in 2020. He lived in several Appalachian states before moving to College Station.

While Pritchard is deep in the Appalachian Mountains, his support Texas team is rooting for him. His wife Lucinda is his logistics coordinator, and she is mailing him needed supplies. Fellow knight Dennis Kavanaugh is the Knight Hike manager and is answering questions while Pritchard is hiking. Deacon Mayes is his spiritual adviser. His dog Sammie is typically his trail boss, but he is now retired so he is cheering for Pritchard from afar.

Fellow knight Dr. Ed Styduhar is his medical adviser. Pritchard injured his left knee then strained his lower back during training, but after some rehab, he began his journey at the beginning of April. In addition to his mobile phone, Pritchard has a satellite phone that tracks his location.

According to Pritchard, about 75% of those who begin an “AT thru-hike” drop out. Yet, he is determined.

“I’m going,” he whispered, “if I have to crawl.” When he completes the hike, he will be 70.

The dignity of life

“All life matters,” Pritchard said. “All life. Human or not.” From the pre-born to the elderly to animals, he believes in the dignity of life. Pritchard and his wife rescue Corgi dogs and rabbits — another way of being pro-life.

He is delighted to raise awareness for three local charities as he hikes.

“All three of them are wonderful, but they serve different needs,” he said. “And they seem to fit like a puzzle.”

St. Gabriel's Pregnancy and Parenting Program of Catholic Charities of Central Texas is one of those organizations.

“They supply [mothers and fathers] with materials, and they also offer counseling and then look for ways they kind of tailor the help that they give these folks depending on their needs,” Pritchard explained.

He expressed similar respect for the Elizabeth House Maternity Home in Bryan, which “provides expectant mothers and their children a safe, enriching and loving home,” according to their website.

Pritchard also promotes the Down Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley, a group that advocates for families and individuals with Down Syndrome and other differing abilities by providing education and community. A phrase from their website stuck with Pritchard; he repeated it aloud. “To celebrate [these] extraordinary lives.”

Pritchard is humbled by the work of these organizations. “Believe me, what I’m doing is nothing compared to what they’re able to do,” he said.

During his hike, he prays the rosary daily for all life. He tries to attend Mass, but that is not always possible along the trail.

“It all comes down to what Jesus wants us to do, and that’s take care of our neighbors and be charitable,” he said. “I can walk, just put one foot in front of the other, and I love the outdoors, and I love backpacking, so maybe this is a way.”

Pritchard is funding his own hike.

Visit to donate to the charities mentioned above and to follow him on the trail.

UPDATE: After hiking 203.1 miles, Pritchard suspended his hike to seek treatment for an injury of his right calf. He made a difficult but prudent decision to return home for medical care. He isn’t sure what his plans are moving forward, but he encourages his followers to continue supporting the pro-life organizations on his website. He will post updates to his Facebook page. 

Kiki Hayden has written for Catholic publications since 2019. She married into a Byzantine Catholic family and became Byzantine rite herself; she is a parishioner of St. Basil the Great Parish in Irving.