UMKC students walk for human trafficking awareness: 1.2-mile walk has symbolic meaning

Kate Baxendale

About 40 participated in a 1.2-mile walk last Friday at UMKC to raise awareness for human trafficking both locally and internationally.

The event was hosted by the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking.

Kansas City is currently 5th in the U.S. based on reported instances of human trafficking—about 1,650 each year, according to the event’s organizers.

The walk was 1.2 miles long in order to promote the “ONLY 12” campaign.

The number 12 represents the average age that a girl is forcibly raped for profit, according to the campaign.

“ONLY 12” benefits the Stop Trafficking Project, which was founded by Russ Tuttle, an area resident who witnessed human trafficking during his childhood years in India as a missionary’s son.

Senior Christina Bumgarner first heard about TSTP last spring when Tuttle spoke to one of her classes in the Bloch School.

“I became intrigued because of his passion for the cause,” said Bumgarner.

Bumgarner recruited her friend, junior Sydney Ingram, to walk with her.

“I wanted to help a good cause,” Ingram said. “I didn’t realize this was happening in Kansas City, so I tagged along with Christina to see what it was about”

Senior Autumn Scott, and junior Isabel Lauderdale both recently joined the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking.

“I’m all for the cause,” Scott said. “Most people don’t think that they can help, but even something small like this [walk] is a step in the right direction. I want to bring awareness to the community. I have faith that we can do it.”

Lauderdale was also surprised to learn that Kansas City is considered a prime location for human trafficking.

“I recently joined the organization and I was shocked to know that this is happening where I live,” Lauderdale said. “I have lived in Kansas City my whole life without knowing about it. I want to make a difference.”

Kory McEnaney, president of the UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking, explained how he organized the first annual walk for the cause.

“There was a lot of coordinating with the Office of Student Involvement in order to get approval for the event,” he said. “I also had to contact the UMKC police in advance to arrange an escort.”

McEnaney said the UMKC Ambassadors sold Chiefs tickets as a fundraiser to sponsor the event.

The glowing eye glasses, red “ONLY 12” awareness bands and drinking water handed out at the event were donated by the KC Running Company, in which Tuttle is involved.

The glow-in-the-dark glasses were used as a symbol for opening one’s eyes to the reality of human trafficking.

“We plan on having more events like this in the future—possibly another walk in the spring,” McEnaney said.  “The whole reason we are here is to open people’s eyes. That’s the point of the goggles.”

The UMKC Ambassadors for Stopping Human Trafficking are having a meeting 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Student Union.

McEnaney said that all are welcome to attend.

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