Fighting for freedom

Freedom 4/24 will host annual 5K for the first time on Liberty’s campus April 30

Freedom 4/24, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the sexual exploitations and human trafficking of women and children around the world, will be hosting its ninth Run 4 Their Lives race in Lynchburg, Virginia Saturday, April 30. This will be the first time the race takes place on Liberty’s campus.

Along with raising awareness, the race is meant to gather financial support for efforts put out by Freedom 4/24 and other organizations to bring freedom to victims.

 Strength— Runners wrote the names of human trafficking victims on their arms while they raced. Photo credit: Sam Chappell

Strength— Runners wrote the names of human trafficking victims on their arms while they raced. Photo credit: Sam Chappell

According to Tim Spaulding, president of the organization for the past three years, Freedom 4/24 was started in 2009 by Liberty alumna Christine Gelatt, whose last name was Pettit at the time.

“(Gelatt) had done an internship in Thailand working with women during the summer, and (when she) came back she just felt a strong burden to do something about it,” Spaulding said. “She said, ‘I can’t go back to my everyday life. … I have to do something about it.’”

Spaulding said Gelatt went around to family, friends and roommates and began raising money. He said it actually started as a ministry — their goal not necessarily being to form a large organization. Over time, however, their growth has been unstoppable.

“We started out by doing funding in Thailand, but after a short amount of time, we realized the (organization’s) potential and our mission expanded beyond just Thailand,” Spaulding said. “Our focus is bringing freedom and justice to victims and survivors of trafficking to raising awareness and raising funds to support frontline organizations that are (already) doing the work.”

He said that the team at Freedom 4/24 looks at other organizations that have the same goals as well as a good track record and then support them financially.

“Instead of going and duplicating the efforts of other people, our vision is that the best use of funds is to get behind organizations who are already making a great impact and helping them make an even bigger impact,” Spaulding said.

Spaulding said the Run 4 Their Lives races, which are held all over the country, are great catalysts for awareness in each community, bringing all aspects of that community — individuals, businesses and churches — together.

Spaulding said that last year, the Lynchburg race had a smaller turnout than previous years. However, he believes the reason could be because the 2015 race was the first year the race was moved from the fall to the spring.

For 2016, he hopes to “catalyze the university,” as this will be the first year the race is held on Liberty’s campus.

“(Human trafficking) has been in the forefront of (society’s mind) for the last eight or 10 years, and we’re seeing more and more growth in people’s awareness,” Spaulding said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to have it on Liberty’s campus. … In year’s past, we’ve had it at smaller colleges, and we were really limited by the size. … We’re excited about bringing awareness to the campus and community, and I think LU is going to be a great venue for that.”

Students and others in the Lynchburg community can get involved with Freedom 4/24 by fundraising or donating money to their cause. Students can also run the race for free if they receive $50 or more in sponsorships toward Run 4 Their Lives. Spaulding said there is also always a need for volunteers and interns as well.

“A lot of it just comes down to, what are your skills, interests (and) passions?” Spaulding said. “This is such a huge global fight that we need people in every field. … There’s a role that everyone can play. A lot of it is looking inside and saying, ‘What are my abilities, what are my skills, what has God gifted me with, and how can I use that to further this cause?’”

The registration price for Run 4 Their Lives is $24 for the 5k Run/Walk and $10 for the Fun Run up until April 15. After that, the price will increase.

To get more information or to sign up for the Run 4 Their Lives, visit

Ritter is a news reporter.

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