The Barefoot Mile; human trafficking fight takes to the streets

Published: May. 19, 2017 at 2:36 PM AKDT
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An event called "

" is planned for Saturday afternoon to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Town Square Park, and it will loop around 3rd and 4th Avenues.

"If the good doesn't rise up to do something about evil, then the evil just grows," said Josh Pepperd, president and CEO of Davis Constructors, who is organizing the event and who's company has donated $50,000.

The name "Barefoot Mile" is inspired by the story of Dr. Jeff Brodsky of Colorado, who founded a disaster relief organization in 1981 called Joy International.

In 2010, Brodsky traveled to Cambodia to learn about the plight of impoverished children who were often kidnapped by sex traffickers. When he noticed that the children were all barefoot, he vowed to stop wearing shoes as a sign of solidarity with them.

"He was just overcome with a personal conviction to walk in solidarity with the victims of trafficking," said Peppered, who met Brodsky two years ago. "One of the main tools that a trafficker uses is to take away their shoes and socks."

Brodsky's organization now works with local police around the world to rescue children from sex traffickers.

The one-mile walk in Anchorage is a fundraiser for Joy International and local organizations that help victims of human trafficking, including Covenant House Alaska, My House and Priceless Alaska.

"I think people think that sex trafficking happens overseas," said Gwen Adams, executive director of Priceless Alaska. "If they really saw what was going on on Alaskan soil, they'd be horrified."

Adams says her organization has had 90 referrals in the past two months of women who were trying to escape sex trafficking and rebuild their lives.

A study released by Covenant House Alaska last month show that at least one in four homeless youth in Anchorage said they were victims of human trafficking.Twenty eight percent of the 65 local respondents had been trafficked for sex, labor, or both.