Human trafficking is not a frequent topic of discussion in Pratt. Four young men, all seniors at the University of Tennessee, are on a cross county bicycle trip to raise $40,000 towards human trafficking awareness. They stopped in Pratt to let people know it’s a problem and the numbers are big.
Freedom Cyclers Matthew Roelofs, Taylor Carlisle, Jason Elliott and Jeff Maier want their contacts to know that 21 million are victims with 100,000 children involved in just the United States alone, Elliott said.
Working in conjunction with Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking and ONEless ministry, both based in Nashville, Tenn., plus the Mekong Club, whose focus is Southeast Asia, these riders share the story of human trafficking for labor or sex and how these organizations are working to bring the topic to light and put laws into place globally, Elliott said.
The four share their message with anyone who will listen along the way. Once they have heard, many want to spread the message as well.
Much of their message is spreading through social media so a lot of work is being done on the home front, Maier said.
When the group gets to Tennessee, other riders will join and ride with them for a distance. The four have been using all types of media along the way to help spread their message.
While on the road, the parents are keeping the group updated on responses to their visits. The parents are also acting as support vehicle drivers and are rotating their duties as the four travel across the country.
The idea for the ride sprung up after two guys the men knew biked across America to raise money for Haiti. Among the four riders, Elliott was the one with the vision for the trip. He was also the only regular bike rider so the rest had to put a lot of time on training starting in January to make the trip, Carlisle said.
When the decision was made to go, they got busy and raised support for their trip. They sent out a lot of letters and made lots of contacts telling people what they were going to do and asking for support.
Besides raising awareness and building support for human trafficking, traveling over 3,000 miles on a bicycle has provided each with special memories like riding across the Rocky Mountains, getting to know traveling companions and getting out of their safety zone.
At one point, their GPS led them to a dirt road that was supposed to be paved. They decided to go ahead and take the road because it would take a long time to backtrack.
Scraped legs and arms were part of their long journey. They all agreed they enjoyed riding on freshly paved asphalt referring to it as “silky smooth.”
The men left New Port Beach in the Los Angeles area on June 11 on their 3,200-mile trip and plan to arrive in Savannah, Ga. on July 25.