Marie Kraemer, 18, is glad to be alive -- and, for her, the annual March for Life, to commemorate lives lost to abortion, is personal.

“I was born in China during the time of the one-child policy,” said Kraemer, who helped organize the march on Saturday, Jan. 23, in Crookston. “I could have been someone who could’ve been aborted, so (the march) means a lot to me.”

About 100 people of all ages participated in the march, which began with a prayer at 1:30 p.m. at Central Park. Participants walked, while chanting and braving bitter winds, several blocks to the Polk County Courthouse, where prayers were recited. All the prayers on this occasion were led by teenagers.

The event was organized by the St. Joseph Holy Family Homeschool support group, Lee Walski, of Crookston, announced at the start of the march.

Marie Kraemer, 18, was abandoned by her birth mother and taken to an orphanage in China, she said. She is grateful that her birth mother did not choose abortion, in the face of pressure from the Chinese government, she said.

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At age 13 months, she was adopted by Laurie and Phil Kraemer, of Grand Forks, who raised her and another adopted Chinese girl, along with five biological children, she said.

“Every day of my life has been a gift. I feel so grateful that I am able to live the life that God wanted me to have," she said.

A student at Lake Region State College, a junior college, she plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota Crookston to study equine science, according to Kraemer, who has attended the March for Life twice in Washington, D.C.

“It was eye-opening, honestly, to see groups from all over the United States, seeing everyone there, thousands and thousands,” she said. “It was very peaceful. Really cool.”

Before the event, she was excited when she heard that people from around the region planned to attend the march in Crookston, according to Kraemer, who credits Mary Kennelly, a member of a local home-school group, for getting the ball rolling.

“She said we should really do something this year,” Kraemer said, noting that this is the first such march that’s been held in Crookston.

“We need to stand up for all lives, instead of just some lives,” she said. “I believe the baby’s life starts from the moment of conception, so to be able to stand up for those lives, it really matters. They don’t have a voice.”

At the event on Saturday, Joseph Vandal, 15, of Minto, N.D., led the procession, holding a staff with a gold crucifix atop. He was followed by Nathan Walski, 16, of Crookston, who held up the U.S. flag.

“I believe life is a right, not a choice of other people,” said Vandal, a high school freshman, adding that he has participated in other similar pro-life events in Fargo in the past.

Joey Walski, 14, has never attended a March for Life rally, he said.

“I was going to go to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., but the group we usually go with was not going to go this year," said Walski, noting that the corresponding event in the nation’s capital is taking place on a much smaller scale than in years past.

Joey Walski said he feels strongly enough about the abortion issue to take part in Saturday’s event in Crookston, which his mother, Lee Walski, coordinated.

“I think someone needs to speak out for the babies who cannot speak out for themselves,” said Joey Walski, an eighth-grade, home-schooled student.

As they walked through the streets, participants were escorted by the Crookston Police Department vehicles, with flashing red and blue lights, up North Ash Street and through residential areas to the courthouse parking lot. They chanted, in response to the lead speaker, the Litany of the Holy Face of Jesus and repetitions of the “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee…” prayer. They also recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison.

Four men carried a raised platform with a white statue of the Virgin Mary.

The crowd included people of all ages, some pushing baby strollers and others carrying signs with messages, such as “Please Let Baby Live,” “Choose Love, Choose Life,” “Remember the Unborn” and “Pray to End Abortion.”

The group walked back to its starting point in Central Park, ending with the song, “God Bless America.”