Local race hopes to focus attention on human trafficking worldwide

“Run for their freedom” is the theme for this weekend’s inaugural Aruna 5K walk/run, a free race starting at 9:00 a.m. in the Vilas Park Shelter on Saturday.

The race is sponsored by The Aruna Project, a non-profit committed to raising awareness about commercial sexual exploitation around the world.

“This is a global crisis.  In one city in India alone, there is an area roughly the size of Madison’s Isthmus where 15,000 women and girls are held captive in the sexual slave trade, many first trafficked into prostitution between the ages of 9 and 14 years old,” said Alex Pence, one of the organizers of the run.

Daily visitations with sex workers, counseling, skill and trade development and adult literacy classes are some The Aruna Project’s initiatives, with the ultimate goal of helping victims obtain lifelong freedom through employment and holistic care, according to Pence.

Ryan Berg, The Aruna Project’s founder, created the race as a way for “ordinary people” to get involved and make a difference.

“It all starts with ordinary people in ordinary places willing to move in a consistent direction, running is what it’s most commonly called. And we run with purpose; we run for their freedom,” said Berg.

Registration opens at 8:00 a.m. Saturday in the Vilas Park Shelter, 1602 Vilas Park Drive. There will be post-race food, raffles, giveaways, and prizes for top runners.

Advanced registration is free, but donations are encouraged. All money raised will go directly to the Aruna Project’s work.