Six runners stop in DC as they venture across the state raising awareness for human trafficking and starvation
By Kristen Miller
Those driving along Highway 12 in either Cokato or Dassel June 29 may have noticed a small pack of runners with “Run Free” tanks on.
The runners were part of a movement to raise awareness and money for the fight to end human trafficking and poverty in Southeast Asia, particularly Burma and Thailand.
The effort is made possible through Venture Expeditions, an organization which uses hiking, biking, and running as platforms to raise money and awareness for some of the world’s greatest injustices, according to its executive director, Paul Hurckman.
Hurckman was part of the team of six runners, which also included five young women, all students at St. Cloud State University Courtney Passa of Bemidji, Nicole Penner of Thief River Falls, Kate Rabago of Blaine, and Danielle Towner of Dawson; and SCSU graduate Sara Menning of St. Cloud.
This particular venture, known as Run Free Minnesota, began in Watertown, SD June 22, and went 200 miles across the state, ending in Stillwater around July 5.
One of the participants, Danielle Towner, is the niece of Paula Trisko of Dassel. Trisko met the team with refreshments during its stop in Dassel.
This was Towner’s third year participating in Run Free Minnesota. She was compelled to participate in the run because she wanted to do something bigger something that could make a greater impact. “The cause spoke to me,” Towner said, whose plan is to go into ministry.
“It’s a small thing I can do to help with one of the world’s biggest injustices,” she added.
Towner, like most of the participants, isn’t a seasoned runner. She began training for it last fall, however. They began with a 5K running plan and worked their way up to a full marathon.
Running day-in and day-out has not only been physically draining on the Run Free participants, it’s also been mentally draining. “That’s when the communities come in,” Towner said, explaining that each community they’ve stopped in has been very supportive of their efforts.
To participate, each runner had to raise a minimum of $2,600 for the cause minus any expenses.
Participants run between 18 and 26 miles a day and stop about every four to six miles. At night, they sleep at the homes of host families or churches. For example, the group participated in a 15-minute speaking engagement at Westpoint Church in Delano June 30.
Venture Expeditions isn’t just a philanthropic organization, it’s faith-based, as well, Hurckman noted. “Extending compassion is the best way to show the love of the church,” he said.
Venture projects are focused on three key initiatives education, food security, and faith development for refugees and oppressed groups.
Other Venture Expedition tours this year have included a cycling tour from Seattle to New York City for the same cause, and a hiking tour of five summits in Colorado for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
For more information on future adventure-driven humanitarian efforts, www.ventureexpeditions.org