TROY — Troy residents Brett Bogan and Cynthia Sroufe, co-founders of the nonprofit Free To Run Foundation and the organizers of the New Year’s Day World Race for Hope 5K in Troy, have announced the creation of a new youth initiative focused on educating teens about human trafficking. The Free To Run youth group, called Teens Stand Against Trafficking, will first educate and then empower teens to become advocates for social justice, and to educate others about how to make a difference in the fight against modern day slavery.
Human trafficking is not just an issue in the developing world. Also, it is not just a women’s issue or a children’s issue it’s a human rights issue.. It is illegal in every country in the world, yet it happens everywhere. According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 40 million men, women, and children in slavery in the world today, more than at any time in history. It is a $150 billion industry, making it the 2nd largest criminal industry, and the fastest growing. Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline indicate Ohio is ranked fifth in the country for human trafficking cases reported through the hotline.
The idea to create a youth-led and youth-focused group was spurred by Troy High School freshman Ellie Fogarty, when she expressed an interest in getting more involved in the fight against human trafficking. Fogarty, as Free To Run Foundation’s first teen ambassador, is leading the recruiting effort to bring more teens into the group, in addition to playing a key role in developing the overall strategy and the activities for the group.
Fogarty explained why she decided to take a stand, “I started learning about human trafficking in seventh grade and how much it impacts the world. I was tired of sitting around knowing that 40 million people were suffering from this evil. I am so thrilled to be a part of Teens Stand Against Trafficking, and fight for those people who do not have the ability to use their voices.”
Even in the early stages of this group, Bogan said he is encouraged by the group’s passion and desire to help others, and to spread awareness of this issue.
“As we have seen recently with other issues around the world, teens are finding their voices and using it to make a difference. The youth are the future, and they are taking an active role in working towards a better future,” Bogan said.
Some of the activities planned by the group include developing a human trafficking awareness training to deliver to community and youth groups, visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, and organizing a community awareness event next spring. To fund the programming in the first year, Free To Run received grants from The Troy Foundation and Miami County Foundation, and support was also received from LexisNexis and individual donors.
The next meeting for Teens Stand Against Trafficking will be in mid-December in Troy. Students in grades seventh through 12th from any area school are welcome and encouraged to join. Parents or teens who would like to receive more details on the meeting or about the program in general can email email@example.com.
Free To Run Foundation is a Troy-based nonprofit founded in 2012 to raise awareness of human trafficking, and to educate and empower the community to become more involved in the fight to end modern day slavery. Free To Run organizes an annual 5K run/walk on New Year’s Day in Troy to raise awareness and funds to fight trafficking in the Dayton area, which is in its 13th year. Learn more at FreeToRunFoundation.org.