Juan Diego senior's crusade for life was almost ended before it began

Busy teen's efforts earn him national accolade

Published: Saturday, April 17 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Thomas Linton, a senior at Juan Diego Catholic High School, is the recipient of the Sports Faith International 2010 Prayers for Life Pro-Life award.

T.j. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

DRAPER — In less than two decades' time, Thomas Linton's life has been all over the map — literally and figuratively.

The young man resides in Mapleton, attends Payson's San Andres Catholic Parish and participates in a morning Junior ROTC class in Utah County before concluding his daily drive to attend classes and play sports at Draper's Juan Diego Catholic High School.

That's just his senior year at Juan Diego — his recent past includes having spent several years at a south Texas military school and preparing to continue his college education, wrestling and service endeavors at Alabama's Marion Military Institute.

Add in his advocacy and charity work, which has taken him throughout Utah, as well as to the likes of Texas, Arizona, Michigan and Canada.

Pretty heady stuff for someone just 19 years into life.

A life that almost wasn't.

An unwanted pregnancy nearly aborted.

"Our society teaches that death is the only answer — that you can abort and go back to your normal life again," Thomas said. "But abortion isn't the answer." Born in early November 1990 at Salt Lake City's LDS Hospital, Thomas learned early he was the adoptive child of Kent and Helen Linton, just like his sole sibling, Elizabeth, four years his elder. "They knew they were loved tons by four parents, not just two," says Helen Linton.

Several years ago, Elizabeth established a relationship with her birth mother, who at one point in her pregnancy found herself at an abortion clinic. But during the era's mandatory 24-hour wait period, the birth mother reconsidered, eventually giving birth to Elizabeth, then giving her up for adoption.

Curious about his own birth circumstances, Thomas made inquiries through Catholic Social Services, which facilitated his adoption. He learned his birth parents also had seriously considered abortion.

Other than the first names of James and Bobbie, he knows nothing more of his birth parents. But it's not for lack of trying.

That limited knowledge prompted Thomas' involvement in anti-abortion causes. "Kids that know they made it past the abortion mill, they really have an affinity for pro-life and babies," Helen Linton said.

Thomas' myriad of advocacy efforts includes working as a food shelter volunteer, helping severely disabled children and young cancer victims as part of an animal-assisted therapy team, and creating a contest between Juan Diego and neighboring Saint John's Middle School in promoting daily prayer and anti-abortion philosophies.

He's also active in Cross Roads, a civil rights organization faithful to Roman Catholic teachings and attentive to right-to-life causes. The Crossroads Pro-Life Walkers has older teens and college-age participants covering specific stretches along a prescribed route, praying along the way — specifically at abortion clinics.

He'll participate in the 2010 Pro-Life Walk, with routes from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles leaving May 22 and converging Aug. 14 in the nation's capital.

Less visible are private efforts like aiding the 17-year-old girl introduced to him through a mutual friend. She was pregnant and considering abortion. Through Thomas' long talks and rides to the doctor, the young woman saw the pregnancy through, forwarding to Thomas a photograph of her to-be-adopted baby and a heartfelt message of appreciation.

All this comes in addition to his schooling and his sports — playing linebacker on Juan Diego's state championship football team and earning Utah all-star wrestling honors despite struggling with an early-season torn pectoral muscle.

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