Southsider Voice correspondent
Saturday morning will not be just another jog for hundreds of Southsiders as they will be running to raise awareness of human trafficking in Indiana and around the world.
Run for One, a 5K event celebrating its fifth anniversary at the University of Indianapolis, is coordinated through an anti-human trafficking group known as Purchased.
“It’s an issue that once people learn about it they want to do something,” said Jessica Thorne, director of Purchased. “We currently have over 300 people registered and have developed a great partnership with the University of Indianapolis.”
The 5K will follow the 9 a.m. 10K race for more advanced runners. Registration is still open for both events at purchased.org and beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. The fee for the 5K is $20 per individual, $30 per family. Group rates are available. Participants can enjoy music, snacks and games such as cornhole before and after the runs.
“I’m excited to have it on the Southside,” Run For One coordinator Stacie Ballard said. “We are just excited that people want to get involved and there is something we can do to stand up for our team and our community.”
Ballard, a graduate of Southport High School, wants the community to understand that human trafficking happens not just overseas but here in Indiana. “Trafficking happens in malls; it happens wherever high school girls gather,” she said.
Purchased began in 2008 as an awareness concert and evolved into a nonprofit in 2011. In addition to Run For One, the organization runs prevention programs for at-risk youths and mentors those who have been trafficked.
“We found that there was an anti-trafficking community in Indiana that we could plug into and that there was a need for education,” Thorne said. “We are really excited about our education programs to reach at-risk youth and rally the community so that they will know what to look for so (girls) don’t fall into this.”
Examples of trafficking that Ballard and Thorne see regularly in Indiana take place at truck stops or involve parents who are addicted to drugs. The ladies teach women not to fall for the “Romeo game,” in which an older boyfriend manipulates women as young as 13 into being trafficked. Thorne sees the best prevention measures as mentorship and having the courage to report suspicious activity.
“I always tell people if you want to do something in the issue of trafficking, mentor a kid,” Thorne said. “We talk to IMPD officers, and they say it’s really important that people make reports. It’s from those tips that the community can find these girls."
Increasing awareness of the issue is what Purchased hopes to achieve through the race. Human trafficking statistics will be posted on signs throughout the course. Purchased has secured six sponsors and many volunteers, including high school groups and Indy Crash, a women’s professional football team.
“It’s been really amazing just to see how many different groups want to volunteer and participate in some way,” Ballard said. “We have a variety of volunteers coming from different groups.”