Kaela Beugnet helped start Leap for Joy, a program to support women in crisis pregnancies. (Submitted photo)

In 2020, a woman named Gloria reached out to Kaela Beugnet, who ran a pro-life Instagram account.

Gloria thanked Beugnet for her pro-life ministry, as she was staunchly pro-life. However, Gloria was also post-abortive and had the idea for a mentorship program specially designed to support women in crisis pregnancies.  Gloria explained that if there had been a program like that, she would not have felt so alone and helpless because she would have had a friend to support her.

The idea for mentorship for expectant women inspired Beugnet to begin Leap for Joy, which solidified into an actual plan by the winter of 2020, and by the fall of 2021, she assembled a team of volunteers, finally receiving nonprofit status in early 2022.

According to Kathleen Kruse, director of communications for Leap for Joy and a recent graduate of Marquette University Law School who practices criminal defense law, the idea was a bit daunting for Beugnet.

“Kaela was intrigued but felt very underqualified for such an undertaking,” Kruse said. “However, she had felt the Lord was drawing her deeper into pro-life outreach, and after a couple of months of discernment, she finally dove in and drafted up a blueprint of what this ‘mentorship program’ could look like.

“Gloria’s story has impacted our team tremendously,” Kruse continued. “Our team firmly believes post-abortive women play a particularly special role in the formation of a culture of life. While their testimonies can be heart-wrenching, they have a profound impact to propagate a call to action.  Furthermore, it is our role as the hands and feet of Christ not to mock or shame these women who are on a journey of healing but rather to listen to their stories, support them on their path toward Christ and pray for them.”

While there is support for women in crisis and unplanned pregnancies, there are no groups like Leap for Joy. Kruse said the 100-percent virtual format is unique and meant to serve women in a post-pandemic world, where so much life has remained online. Their program complements preexisting, in-person services.

“There is also a large demographic of women who would get involved in efforts to support new mothers if there were opportunities that could be integrated into their busy lives,” Kruse said. “Our program creates this opportunity with greater ease to fit mentee conversations into daily life. No meetups, no driving, no fees, and the commitment is less than one year.”

When a woman applies to Leap for Joy, they are matched with a mentor based on matching criteria. The organization trains the mentors and supports them during their mentorships. Additionally, they provide connections and referrals to in-person support and resources.

“We hope in the future to grow our content and resource library,” said Kruse. “Women seeking a mentor are not only connected with a mentor but are also connected with other women seeking support, to facilitate an entire online community.”

The mentors are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their role in helping women. Women currently waiting for a match come from 10 states, in all age ranges.

“We are always looking for more women interested in being a mentor. The more women in our mentor pool, the better we can connect women in need,” said Kruse. “So far, we have had positive feedback from our mentors and mentees. While mentors are (just) one part of helping women choose life, we believe they are a critical part. Women, St. John Paul II said, are relational, and their dignity is closely related to the love they give and receive in return. Foraging these personal connections is essential.”

As a Catholic and member of St. Mary’s Visitation Parish in Elm Grove, Kruse said Leap of Joy is not affiliated with a specific parish, but it is always looking to work with parishes to find mentors and spread the news to women in need.  Beugnet, the founder of Leap for Joy, belongs to Old St. Mary’s Parish, and the other team members reside in Iowa and Washington, D.C.

“Serving others is, of course, the most intimate way to live as Jesus did. I believe that it is not just expectant mothers who are being served by our ministry. What better way to build a culture of life than to welcome mentors into pro-life service and train them to serve women in their most difficult time,” Kruse said. “In the same way, the women we are serving deeply affect our team. Starting a brand-new nonprofit, with no experience, is not a small task. I have worked on trusting and surrendering to God — sometimes that is the only option you have, and it is humbling.”

The operational expenses for Leap for Joy are financed solely through donations. They are always looking for donors who feel called to support the Leap for Joy mission.

“The more support we have as an organization, the more support we can provide to women in need,” said Kruse. “Specifically, our team is completely volunteer, and we are hoping to raise funds to hire staff to run our mentorship program part time. So, we are not only looking for financial support but also for those called to serve with us.”

For more information on Leap for Joy, visit https://www.leapforjoyinc.com.