LAURINBURG — Later this week, the pilgrimage of two women hoping to raise awareness of modern-day slavery will hit Laurinburg — and they’re asking locals to join in for a mile or three.
Walking for Freedom left Gastonia on Sunday for a 220-mile trek to Wilmington, along the way spreading awareness of human sex trafficking. On Friday, 115 miles into their journey, the group will pass through Laurinburg.
“For safety reasons it’s really about inviting people to step out and walk a few miles through their community to show their support,” said Stacie Phillips, the organization’s co-founder.
The organization was created by Phillips and Patti Crawford, who are asking for people in each city along the route to come out and walk with them.
“Once people hear about the cause and what we’re really doing it for, they’re happy to jump in and support us,” Crawford said.
Captain Larry’s Seafood House will be feeding and donating a percentage of its proceeds that day to the walk. Then 100 percent of all donations will go towards safe homes for sex trafficked victims.
“All funds will go towards three safe homes that take victims and survivors from all over the county,” Crawford said. “They are On Eagles Wings, A Safe Place and Oasis of Hope.”
For 12 days, the women will be walk approximately 20 miles a day for the 16,000 victims that are trafficked in the United States each year.
“1,700 girls in North Carolina alone are trafficked starting between the ages of 11 and 14,” said Crawford.
The average pimp has four to six victims and makes about $200,000 per year.
“There is no little town that is safe from it; it’s everywhere, not just in the big cities,” Phillips said.
Approximately 300,000 children in the United States are at risk for prostitution and one-third of runaways will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
“People don’t realize it’s happening within their neighborhoods, within their homes,” said Crawford. “Young girls and boys are being trafficked in small towns like and around Laurinburg.”
There have been many cases where children have been coerced into sex trafficking through social media then taken to strip clubs or truck stops and sold.
“People think this just happens in other countries, they don’t realize it can happen next door, it can happen in their own home,” said Phillips.
To spread awareness and raise money for safe houses, Crawford and Phillips are asking residents of every town and city along the way to participate in their walk.
“As much as we would love people to donate, the most important part is to raise awareness and educate people on how to end sex trafficking,” Phillips said.
Those that decide to join in the Walk for Freedom can visit the website to sign up. All walkers will receive an email with information on where to meet the night before.
“Businesses and donors can also contribute by checking out the website,” Crawford said. “We’re just trying to get the knowledge out there and get the community involved.”
For more information on the organization and how to sign up visit walkingforfreedom.org.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.