By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Local supporters took part in a global walk for the awareness of child exploitation and human trafficking Saturday, Aug. 22.
Approximately 30 people gathered on the courthouse lawn in Warsaw to participate in the two-mile walk that began at 1 p.m.
The event, called “Freedom for the Children,” was organized by two local women, Cassie Rolon and Theresa Bumblis, both of Warsaw.
Rolon said she found out about the global walk on Facebook and knew that Warsaw needed to participate.
“When I didn’t see any (local) events going on, I decided to move forward with it and grabbed a few friends to help out,” Rolon said. “Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world and it needs to come to an end.”
Bumblis said she has been doing research on this for the past four years.
“I found out that every 40 seconds a child goes missing in the U.S. and that Indiana ranks No. 2 for being the highest in sex trafficking,” Bumblis said. “These things go on, but if we give our kids the information and the tools, then we can make a difference and hopefully stop this.”
Bumblis said the event was planned in about a week.
“We’ll see after this one where we can improve and see about making this a bigger event next time,” she said.
The women supplied signs for supporters to carry. Many people who drove past the courthouse honked their horns in support of the event.
A family from Three Rivers, Mich., came to Warsaw specifically for the event after seeing it promoted on Facebook.
Gage, Cara and Landon said they were not aware of any protests in their area when they made plans to come to Warsaw.
“Apparently there is one today in Three Rivers, but we had already committed to this one,” Cara said.
Warsaw resident Jessica Pavis and her family also attended the event.
“One of the main reasons we came here today is because I’ve got kids — and it’s scary,” Pavis said. “I feel all kids should be protected, even if they’re not ours.”
Peter Stoffel and Garrett Kuhn, both of North Webster, said they showed up to help raise awareness.
“I came out to basically just spread awareness and give information so people understand that we need to prevent these types of things from happening in our country,” Kuhn said.
All proceeds from donations and t-shirt sales at today’s event will be given to Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 whose goal is to rescue children from sex trafficking.
Saturday’s event was the second in recent weeks calling attention to the issue. The other was in Winona Lake and organized by another group.