Run for Courage
Dec 30, 2011 03:34AM
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Photo by Dante Fontana
Sex trafficking tips the scales beyond horrific to malevolence – an issue too savage to even consider.
Yet, despite the spike in domestic sex trafficking, most people still associate the crime with poverty-stricken third world countries far removed from the “land of the free.” But for one local family, and countless more across the nation, it is an unthinkable reality.
Two years ago, in a quiet bedroom community of Sacramento, a local 17-year-old girl was abducted from the grocery store and sent to a motel in the Bay Area, where for one merciless week she was drugged, sold on Craigslist and repeatedly raped until she was rescued. This heartbreaking atrocity prompted 11 concerned locals, shaken to their core by the incident, to join forces against sex trafficking and help restore its young victims – children whose average age falls between 11 and 14, but who are sometimes as young as 10.
The group – parents, runners and athletes – officially formed in 2010 to plan Folsom’s “Run For Courage,” a 5/10K race, which took its mark in October of the same year. Support from 726 participants, numerous volunteers and generous sponsor contributions helped the inaugural race net $41,000. Event proceeds were then donated to a local non-profit organization overseeing the construction of a safe house for minor victims of sex trafficking.
Now operating under the banner Run for Courage, Inc. (RFC), the newly formed nonprofit battles sex trafficking through its namesake race – which recently celebrated its second year – as well as fundraising for cause-related initiatives and organizations, and staging large-scale events.
Sadly, the call for RFC assistance has reached something of an apex as sex trafficking continues to increase. “Around the globe,” explains Executive Director Ashlie Bryant, “millions of children suffer at the hands of captors and abusers in this $32-plus billion ‘industry.’ In the U.S. alone, officials estimate that as many as 300,000 children are trafficked each year.”
Regionally, California is the only state that claims three cities with a high incidence of child sex trafficking. “Locally,” adds Bryant, “it is a problem because the intersecting freeways of Highways 5, 99 and 80 allow girls from this region to be taken and moved quickly out of state, where it is easy for them to become lost.” Once they’ve disappeared, pimps change their identities to make tracing difficult for authorities. So problematic, in fact, special task forces are forming nationwide to assist law enforcement in finding victims.
What started with a concerned group of citizens has in two short years spurred the makings of a movement. More than 1,700 runners participated in the second annual “Run For Courage” race, which took place this past October. The event funneled more than $100,000 to four organizations working directly with sex trafficking victims: Courage To Be You, Wind Youth Services, New Day For Children and Agape International Missions.
For more information, visit runforcourage.org.