Most people are shocked to discover that girls as young as 10 are sold for sex every day in the United States. Estimates say up to 300,000 American children are sexually exploited each year in this $32 billion industry, and worldwide the number is close to 1.2 million.
Pimps use violence and coercion to force these young girls into compliance. Traffickers then sell them online. The Department of Justice estimates 12-14 year olds are the most at risk, however globally victims have been found as young as 5-years-old.
These facts and more made a small group of Northern California women focus on what they could do to combat the heinous crime of sex trafficking. The problem also hit them personally.
One of the founding members, Vicki Zito’s, daughter was abducted from their sleepy suburb of Sacramento in 2008; she was moved to the Bay Area and sold for sex until she was rescued almost a week later.
Vicki and a group of mothers knew they had to do something, anything, to help fight the growing war against sex trafficking.
However, none of the team members has a mental health or law enforcement background. Therefore, they decided the best thing to do is raise money to support the dedicated men and women who are on the front lines of this battle everyday, rescuing and restoring these precious young victims’ lives.
“Knowing we did not have the training to work with victims, we considered where we did have training. Most of us are athletes and know what it means to Run For A Reason, so after considering several different options, we decided that we could host a 5K/ 10K run/walk to raise both awareness and money for this mission,” according to executive director Ashlie Bryant. Thus, Run For Courage was born.
According to Bryant, their first annual Run For Courage in 2010 was a raving success. “We hosted 726 runners and raised over $41,000 to support a safe home in the Sacramento area.”
The second annual Run For Courage in Folsom, California will be held October 8th.
You don’t live in the area? No problem. Bryant says people can donate as virtual runners and will receive a t-shirt in the mail.
The organization is also looking to spread nationally. Bryant says they hope to see partnership races crop up under the Run For Courage name. These locations will also have awareness nights and speakers there to help inform their communities about the crime and prevalence of sex trafficking. See the Run For Courage website for more details.
Run For Courage is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. They have launched a campaign for those who wish to support the organization by giving single or regular monthly tax-deductible contributions. Information about sponsorship can be found on their website at www.runforcourage.com. Tax deductible donations can also be mailed to: Run For Courage, Inc., 3941 Park Drive, Suite 20-200, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762.
One thing that is clear is the amount of courage it takes to fight this battle; young girls who recover from this horrible crime are some of the most courageous amongst us.
Join Run For Courage as they race to restore the lives of these young girls.