Blanket Fort Hope holds fifth annual 5k
Published 1:37 pm Monday, September 18, 2023
By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer
PELHAM – The weather was clear and the high was 83 at the fifth annual Blanket Fort Hope race on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Blanket Fort Hope is a nonprofit organization that fights against child human trafficking. The yearly Hold the Fort races are one of the group’s major fundraising events, and have rapidly expanded over the last several years.
The first annual Blanket Fort Hope run had 20 people present. The next held in 2020 quadrupled its runners with 80 racers present. This year, the number was even higher.
“We had 216 people that signed up this year,” said Phaedra Galloway, project manager of Blanket Fort Hope.
It is estimated that 57 percent of human trafficking victims in Alabama are under the age of 18. Nationally it is thought that sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise. The average age of someone entering into child sex trafficking is between 11 and 15 years of age.
“We live in a world where dangers to children in regards to sex trafficking exist in ways we have never dealt with before,” said Detective Brad Jordan of the Pelham Police department. “Child sex trafficking in Alabama is very real and represents a danger to children everywhere.”
Children who travel in sex trafficking are said to have an average life expectancy of seven years, due to drug overdose, suicide and sexually transmitted diseases.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that there are not enough resources available with only 600 beds in the entire country being dedicated to human trafficking survivors and minimal mental health support.
“Records indicate that roughly 87 percent of the females that I personally have pulled out of the sex trafficking investigations ultimately return to that lifestyle,” Jordan said.
Blanket Fort Hope works to provide resources for victims of human trafficking in the greater Birmingham area.
These initiatives include the training of over 7,500 people on how to understand human trafficking and be advocates for its survivors, and more recently the planned construction of a 9-bed restoration home to house and provide therapies for survivors.
The project is estimated to cost $1,500,000 and funding will come from fundraisers like the Hold the Fort races and the annual Restoring Hope Gala which is due to take place on Thursday, Feb. 29.
“James Span was our master of ceremonies last time, and he’s committed again,” Galloway said.
To learn more about Blanket Fort and its mission be sure to visit Blanketforthope.org/restoringhope/