See also the LifeSiteNews photo journal of this event

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That was the message of the 2nd Life Prizes Awards ceremony, which presented six pro-life heroes awards totaling $600,000 dollars, in recognition of their efforts to establish a culture of life in the United States and all over the world.

The Gerard Health Foundation, an organization set up by pro-life philanthropist Ray Ruddy and his wife, invited more than 500 guests – many of them leaders and activists from all quarters of the pro-life movement – to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the heart of Washington, D.C. on Saturday, for the ceremony.

“The purpose of Life Prizes is to honor those in the pro-life movement who have worked tirelessly to advance pro-life causes,” said Gerald Health’s Vice President Claude Allen. “Through Life Prizes, we are placing funds in the hands of a few who have done much to advance and defend life, because they know best where those funds are needed to save lives.”

Allen announced that Life Prizes 2008 award winner Lila Rose had been offered an additional $125,000 matching grant for her investigative work exposing the practices of other abortionists.

“Lila has met that match,” he announced, which the audience met with loud applause.

Laura Ingraham, a nationally syndicated talk show radio host and FOX News contributor, was master of ceremonies for the event, her second time in that role.

“Tonight we are able to celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Ingraham.

“These people we honor tonight heard the call of the most helpless of human beings: unborn children, and disabled patients abandoned by the medical profession, the legal profession, and sometimes unfortunately by their own families,” she continued. “Our honorees put aside their life plans to fight for people whom they never met. It’s the most important work in the world.”

Honoree Kristan Hawkins, the executive director of Students for Life of America (SFLA), was first. She was recognized for her tireless efforts to make SFLA the largest student pro-life organization in the world, expanding the pro-life movement’s reach among U.S. students through nearly 600 chapters on college and university campuses.

“Talk about a revolution!” Ingraham said, noting that the 25-year-old pro-life leader and married mom of two would sometimes get up at 2 am. to visit college campuses all over the nation and then get back home at the same time the next day.

Marie Smith, Director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, was also honored for her efforts to unite lawmakers and religious leaders to advance pro-life laws and policies on the international stage.

Smith, however, deflected attention from herself, and instead said she wanted to thank her husband U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), whom she met in their college years when most of their “dates” were going to pro-life events, for his tireless support.

After the event, LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) met up with Rep. Smith, who said that while he tried to persuade Marie to change her speech, in reality she is very much the rock that has sustained his own life. “I couldn’t do anything I do without her.”

“She is the wisest woman I have ever met. She writes well, she thinks clearly, is very logical, and she provides the insights, the ideas,” he said. “Now what she is doing internationally is just extraordinary.”

Also honored was Jeanne Head of International Right to Life Federation. Ingraham noted that Head had actually trained to be an actress on the stage, but instead found herself on the world stage, speaking and lobbying on behalf of life at the United Nations General Assembly.

The next awardee was the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, an organization founded and administered by the Schindler family, whose daughter and sister Terri Schindler-Schiavo was starved to death by court order obtained by her philandering husband.

Ingraham told the audience that the family had been just ordinary people – Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother, was a schoolteacher – before they dedicated themselves to bringing good out of Terri’s “brutal death” by establishing the Network. Their organization seeks to help save the lives of other incapacitated persons in life-threatening situations.

“It’s thanks to our good Lord above that their work has already helped, get this, one thousand families,” said Ingraham to an applauding audience.

Ingraham noted that the next awardee, Doug Johnson, NRLC’s legislative director, once trained to become a journalist, and ended up the most effective lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He has spent the past 30 years securing some of the greatest legislative victories of the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade.

“I am deeply appreciative for this honor. I accept it with gratitude,” said Johnson, who thanked his family for their support and sacrifices, in particular his wife Caroline, without whom, he said, “I would not be able to do this work for thirty days let alone thirty years.”

Johnson also praised the pro-life grassroots, the countless, selfless citizen activists, who he said “deserve the ultimate credit for every successful effort that I’ve been involved in.”

Johnson said “pundits wrote the obituary for our movement” when President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, but after two years on the defensive, the pro-life movement struck back with the partial-birth abortion debate, “the positive effects of which continue to reverberate.”

“Each human person is created by God, and thus each has intrinsic worth and rights. No human life is devoid of value. No innocent life should be taken by another,” Johnson said, noting that the next two years fighting legislative battles in Washington would be “critical to the future of our cause and humanity.”

Other honorees included Reverend Alveda King, the niece of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. She is founder of King for America and has become the public face of the pro-life movement in the black community.

“The gift will enable me to plant seeds for life. This gift will further advance the message for life and civil rights for the smallest and weakest of our brothers and sisters,” said King. “My uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. was a champion for civil rights, and as you know, he had a vision. His niece also has a vision that abortion will be outlawed in her lifetime.”

The awards ceremony began with live musical performance by vocalist Caitlin Jane, and had an intermission by the Christian pop band BarlowGirl.

“It’s an honor to be with all of you tonight, celebrating something that us girls absolutely love, and that is the right to life,” said BarlowGirl lead singer, Alyssa Barlow.

The BarlowGirls also hosted a post-concert to which 300 students had been invited, in addition to those attending guests.

“Tonight was an opportunity to see people who truly deserved the recognition they got, receive it in abundance, be a part of that room, feel that love, and know that it was earned with hard won blood, sweat, and tears. It was a moment of absolute sheer delight for me,” Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, told LSN. Gans said that many of those honored had been personal colleagues in the pro-life movement.

“If anybody applauded louder than me, I’d like to challenge them, because I was on my feet every single time with joy and admiration. It was a perfect evening.”