Annual Hero 5K to raise awareness for child human trafficking

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published June 10, 2019

 Runners participate in the third annual Hero 5K color run and 1-mile walk to raise money to prevent child human trafficking at Bloomer Park last June. The event was created by two Macomb County teachers who wanted to raise awareness and funding for child human trafficking.

Runners participate in the third annual Hero 5K color run and 1-mile walk to raise money to prevent child human trafficking at Bloomer Park last June. The event was created by two Macomb County teachers who wanted to raise awareness and funding for child human trafficking.

Photo provided by Laurie Bradshaw

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OAKLAND COUNTY — In December 2015, as Macomb County teachers Laurie Bradshaw and Damien Buckley sat together and talked through the heavy topic of human trafficking, they decided to stop simply talking about it and to take action.

Together they hatched a plan to create and organize a 5K race to help bring awareness to and raise funds for the plight of child human trafficking happening locally, statewide, nationally and globally. Six months later, in May 2016, they hosted the first of what would become an annual event that has grown each year since.

The event, which started as simply a 5K timed race, has grown into a color run that now also includes a 1-mile walk, sponsors and vendors, and a live DJ.

This year, the event will be held 9-11 a.m. June 22 at Bloomer Park, 345 John R Road in Rochester Hills.

Bradshaw said the event was much more somber in its first year than it is now; they began by trying to spread some of the heavier statistics related to child human trafficking. As the event has evolved, she and Buckley have begun to shy away from organizing it that way in fear that talking about human trafficking was making participants uncomfortable.

“People’s jaws kind of drop and they’re uncomfortable when they hear these statistics,” said Buckley. “We wanted to get the message across without making people uncomfortable, so we decided to make it more fun and friendly for the entire family.”

In the event’s fourth year, they have tried to organize it as a more family-oriented, fun outing for all ages that celebrates the community coming together to make a difference.

“As we evolved, we started steering this in the direction of kids helping kids to a degree, so that’s why we changed it to a color run,” Bradshaw said. “Each year we’re trying to add something a bit different to make the run more fun and engaging for everybody.”

Bradshaw said the color run aspect of the race makes it a “fun way to celebrate.”

At the event, people can stand on the sidelines and spray dry paint onto the participants, and participants will have a chance to throw some color into the air after completing the race as well. There will be a non-color lane for runners who prefer not to get dirty.

Event participants will have the opportunity to put their handprint on a large communal canvas after finishing the race to give them a sense of pride in being able to raise money for the cause.

Gift cards and other prizes will be awarded to the top runner in each age category for male and female participants. All other runners will receive a free T-shirt and a swag bag filled with human trafficking statistics, sponsorship information and small gifts.

This year, Bradshaw and Buckley are hoping to have at least 200 runners participate, which would be at least 50 more than they had last year. Their goal is to raise $5,000 for Dayspring Ministries International, a nonprofit that provides funding to help rescue endangered children, as well as medical and psychological care, and builds safehouses for children affected by human trafficking.

Most importantly, however, their hope is to plant a seed in their participants’ minds so they walk away with more knowledge of this worldwide issue than they had before.

“One of the biggest takeaways we want our participants to have this year is we want them to walk away knowing they actually did something by participating that’s actually going to make a difference in the life of a child,” Bradshaw said. “I hope they walk away feeling inspired … and recognizing that this is a very real issue that they can’t let go of.”

“We’ve been given this knowledge, and we need to challenge people to help each other,” Buckley added.

The event costs $25 for adults and $12 for kids 12 and younger.

Individuals interested in participating can sign up at runsign up.com/Race/MI/RochesterHills/Hero5KColorRun1MileWalk.

All proceeds will be donated to Dayspring Ministries International. Those who can’t attend the event but still want to donate can do so at the registration link. Sponsorship slots are also still open for the event.

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