Road race starts fighting an international problem at home.
A civilized society must rise up and say “not in our city, not in our nation, not in our world!”
These are the words of Phillip O’Reilly: husband, father, grandfather, and pastor of Rock of KC, a nondenominational church in the Northland. When O’Reilly learned that there is worldwide demand for children who are trafficked for sex with adults, he knew he had to do something.
“It literally broke my heart. Having grandchildren of my own, it was unconscionable for me to do nothing,” he says. After his daughter challenged him to run a half-marathon with her, he had an idea.
“Why not run for a cause,” he says. “Why not raise money and awareness of human trafficking?” He decided to do just that and ran his first half-marathon for the cause of human trafficking, and he invited his church to join him by running and raising funds, all of which are donated to organizations that are directly involved in stopping human trafficking.
Traffickers typically target youth, who are coerced and deceived, usually through the exploitation of their circumstances. Many have a history of abuse and find themselves alone and in compromising situations. It’s a worldwide problem, one that Kansas City is familiar with; according to published accounts, just last October, an international FBI investigation led to the arrest of 12 alleged pimps and 14 alleged johns on state and federal charges. The investigation included areas in Kansas City, Independence, and Overland Park and was the 10th such effort executed by the FBI.
“What is going on right here in Kansas City is an evil that, in my opinion, is inexcusable to do nothing about,” says O’Reilly. “We can’t let the fact that we can’t do everything stop us from doing something.”
That something is Run to Stop It, a campaign that raises funds and awareness to put a stop to sex trafficking by participating in Kansas City area runs: full and half marathons and 5ks.
There are different ways to participate: run, manage a water station, or donate money. Every cent, O’Reilly says, goes to organizations dedicated to stopping human trafficking; no administrative fees are withheld.
“This is an abolition movement,” says O’Reilly. “Innocent children are being held in modern day slavery and being sold repeatedly over and over again for adults to have sex with. It must be abolished and we invite anyone not currently involved in this movement to join us.”
In its first year, close to 100 people ran. In the beginning, funds were donated to a ministry in Texas called For the Silent, which is an organization involved directly in fighting human trafficking.
When the decision was made three years ago to support a ministry in the Kansas City area—because Kansas City is a major hub for human trafficking activity—O’Reilly changed the name to Run to Stop It.
Proceeds currently go to Exodus Cry, a ministry in Grandview, and Restoration House of Greater Kansas City. Exodus Cry is determined to abolish sex slavery through Christ-centered prevention, intervention, and holistic restoration of victims. Restoration House of Greater Kansas City is a faith based, long-term, residential program for survivors of sex trafficking.
“Last year we were able to give $100,000.00,” says O’Reilly. “This year, we gave $80,000.00 each to Exodus Cry and Restoration House of Greater Kansas City.”
Benjamin Nolot of Exodus Cry says that Run to Stop It is a critical step in engaging the community in awareness and understanding that human trafficking affects all of us.
“We must stand together in solidarity with our sisters who are enslaved and exploited to demand their freedom,” says Nolot.
For more information on how to help, visit RunToStopIt.com.