Monday, September 1, 2014

Run For Their Lives: Lynchburg community runs for freedom

Runners wrote the names of girls trapped in human trafficking on their arms.

“Dragging myself out of bed at 5 a.m.? I haven’t done that in a long time,” Liberty freshman, Heather Beaman said. “But the job description doesn’t include sleeping in. Today is vital in the effort of saving lives.”

Beaman was just one of the nearly 250 people that came out to volunteer for “Run For Their Lives 2010” on Saturday, Oct. 23, according to Martha Heinlein, campus relations director for Freedom 4/24.  Volunteers began arriving at 5 a.m. to start setting up and continued to show up throughout the morning Heinlein said.

According to Heinlein, the volunteers were desperately needed because of all the activities provided. Face painting, stick-on tattoos and balloons were just a few of the stations a runner could go to get motivated, Heinlein said. During and after the races, there was free water and food available for the runners.

“Run For Their Lives is a 10k race, 5k run/walk and youth run in Lynchburg, Va. that aims to place the spotlight on sexual slavery worldwide, but specifically in Southeast Asia,” according to Runfortheirlives.net, the race’s home website.

Last year’s results posted on the race’s website listed 695 runners. However, according to the main sponsor organization, Freedom 4/24, there were an additional 108 runners whom weren’t able to officially register.

This year, the number of runners more than doubled. A total of 1,746 runners participated said race aid Jon Dupin, pastor of Brentwood Church. According to the online results, the youth run doubled from last year, while the 10k added an additional 61 runners.

The 5k ballooned, nearly tripling the amount of participants with 1,140 listed runners. These results do not include the roughly 230 runners who were not listed in the online race reports.

Michael Mclood, 10, was first to finish the youth run finished at three minutes, thirty-two seconds. Colton Smith, also 10 years old, came in a close second with a time of 03:36. Nine-year-old Henro Kriel finished at 03:53, putting him in third place.

The 5k was won by Derek Kitchen, 21, with a pace of five minutes and forty seconds per mile, at 17:35. Coming in second place was 20-year-old Parker Spencer with a time of 17:43. Ben Browne took third place with a time of 18:40.

Jordan Bright finished the 10k first with a time of 35:54. Bright had a lead of over a minute on the next runner. Matthew Baker took second place with his time of 37:17. Tim Smith came in third almost two minutes behind Baker at 38:59.

Registered runner’s results for both years are posted online at runfortheirlives.net.

“For me it’s a God thing. Human trafficking, especially in the exploitation of children is something near and dear to my heart,” 10k runner Wade Stout said. “It is amazing to see where these girls come from and what God can do in their lives.I have a desire to do whatever I can to help stop human trafficking.”

Warming up with Stout was Amanda Watts and Rie Sasaki, both 5k runners. According to Watts and Stout, both were inspired to help end human trafficking when they heard about House of Hope Nicaragua through Blue Ridge Community Church.

Much like Freedom 4/24, House of Hope Nicaragua is an evangelistic outreach to prostitutes in Managua, Nicaragua, according to www.houseofhopenicaragua.com.

“Something as small as one Saturday can drastically change someone else’s life,” Watts said.

Stout ran the 10k in honor of a woman stuck in the sex trafficking industry named Sangwan. Watts was running for Anchali.

“I think it is important for communities to fight injustices together,” Heinlein said. “As they raise their voices, states hear, nations hear and change happens. There is strength in numbers when a community is passionate together.”

Various Lynchburg churches, schools, sponsors and donors were represented at the race. Tents from Victory FM, Lynchburg Review, SmartWool, House of Hope, and Joe Beans lined the entry way. Also among the crowd was TEAM, an after school mentor and tutoring program at Linkhorne Middle School.

“We wanted our kids to understand that there is a bigger world out there,” 5K runner Kenya Turner said.

Turner is the administrator for TEAM. Turner smiled as she stated 33 of the 37 students were planning on participating in the 5K run alongside a few of their teachers and administration. According to Turner, TEAM heard about the event after she found out about the race through health promotions meeting with the Orthopedic Center of Central Virginia (OCCVA).

“They (OCCVA) showed us a video about Run For Their Lives,” 13-year-old TEAM member Kasia Pullen said. “Then every Tuesday and Thursday they came to our school and trained with us.”

Freedom 4/24 aims to be a pathway to a new and better life for sexually endangered women, as stated in their vision statement online. Working specifically with an organization called Beginnings, Freedom 4/24 is able to provide housing, education and training for women in Southeast Asia who are willing to take the risk and leave their working situation.

“When I found out about Freedom 4/24, I was amazed that Lynchburg, Virginia of all places cared about Thailand,” Beaman said.

Beaman’s parents are missionaries in India, however, she attended an international boarding school in Thailand for the past 2 years before coming to Liberty this fall.

Even with the obvious displays of prostitution, Beaman’s community ignored and muted any attempt to expose the practice.

“I love that everything Freedom 4/24 stands for,” Beaman said. “After today I am just in love with everything the Lynchburg community is doing to help a place I consider my second home.”

For more information about Freedom 4/24 visit www.freedom424.org

For more information about Blue Ridge Community Church’s involvement with House of Hope Nicaragua visit www.blue-ridge.org

EDWARDS is a feature writer.

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