Real Freedom Races to help break the chains
By Kyra Jagodzinski
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – The ninth annual Real Freedom Races, a run/walk to break the chains of human trafficking will take place in Necedah, August 13-14.
The in-person events consist of a 5K, 10K, and a half-marathon; virtual options include the 5K, 10K, half-marathon. A new race series contains all three events.
The in-person event will host craft vendors and food trucks. Children are welcome to support family members, and can play games during the races.
The Real Freedom Races’ earnings are donated to Project Rescue, a church-based organization that rescues and restores victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery. Michelle Christensen, race coordinator, has been a minister in the Assemblies of God since 2005. Her personal experiences and beliefs led her to Project Rescue, and she now works to inform communities, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
“I personally watched a woman in a hotel being taken to a room, eyes downcast, with a man she did not speak to… just followed like a dog, and at that time I didn’t know what (to) do… My friend confirmed that (the) establishment was well known for trafficking and (all) hands were tied,” she recalled.
Michelle and Project Rescue volunteers point out that central Wisconsin is between Chicago/Milwaukee, Appleton and Eau Claire, so a large amount of underreported human trafficking incidents is occurring every year. These major cities and the areas around it make up a large amount of human trafficking victims and consumers, with central Wisconsin becoming a large target for those who profit from sexual slavery.
“(Human trafficking in Wisconsin) can be (associated) with “gentleman’s clubs,” truck stops, hotels, and just about any neighborhood that you might not suspect… (Those who spoke with the girls) told stories of how it goes under the radar and unreported often since these ladies look legitimately employed by choice. Some are, but many are being trafficked,” she added.
Christensen said that community members should get educated on the human trafficking issues in their area. Attending training classes, whether online or in person, will teach you how to identify signs to prevent more victims and to get current victims out, she recommends.
Victims of human trafficking are often groomed over time before being abducted, so parents should monitor their children’s online, and in person, relationships closely. Conversations with children and family members on the subject should be age appropriate, but are a necessary precaution in protecting past, present, and future victims of human trafficking.
“This is real. It happens everyday, and anyone is susceptible. Together, we can make a huge difference in lowering demand and vulnerability.”
The Real Freedom Race is open to those of all ages and athletic abilities and will take place in the Necedah Lions Park. Children, adults and seniors are all welcome to participate, with a youth discount for children 12 and younger.
Register at www.runsignup.com and search “Real Freedom Races.”