The runway at Dubuque Regional Airport took a break from take-offs and landings this morning, instead hosting more than 150 runners for an annual event aimed at combatting human trafficking.
The runners came out for Run the Runway Against Human Trafficking, a 5K and 1K fun run organized by University of Dubuque’s Spartan Nation Liberation Foundation in partnership with the airport and the university’s aviation department and flight team.
“We have two runways, so this doesn’t disrupt our operations,” Airport Director Todd Dalsing said. “We’re still open. It’s a great partnership that we have with University of Dubuque.”
Tiffany Duncan, of Green Bay, Wis. and Chelsea Hawkins, of St. Louis, Mo., who graduated from UD in 2015, were co-founders of Spartan Nation Liberation Foundation and both attended this morning’s event.
The group started with a project in a class on trafficking taught by Kim Hilby, a UD assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.
“We were in Professor Hilby’s class, and the project was to come up with an original idea that would help people who had been trafficked,” Duncan said. “We wanted to do something that would continue after graduation.”
UD senior Molly Smith, current president of Spartan Nation Liberation Foundation, said the 5K event is both a fundraiser and an opportunity for local organizations to educate attendees about the dangers of human trafficking and its presence in the area.
“The proceeds from this event will stay local,” she said. “We donate to places like Riverview Center, the Tri-State Coalition (Against Human Trafficking) and also to other places like women’s shelters.”
Smith, a politics major and sociology minor, got involved with Spartan Nation Liberation Foundation when she also took Hilby’s class a few years after Duncan and Hawkins.
“(Human trafficking) is a social justice issue,” Hilby said. “You think you’re not affected by it, but in some way, shape or form, you’ve been affected by it. There are a lot of independent, intelligent, smart people who end up manipulated into these situations.”
Suzie Wright, an associate with Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who also is involved with the tri-state coalition, has been involved in anti-trafficking causes for the past 22 years. She said that getting people out of the trafficking system and educating people about the problem are equally important.
“People may be afraid to report it because they feel they might be wrong,” she said. “And those in the system have a very real fear that they will be punished or that their friends or family may be hurt.”
On the runway, Abigail Ryan and Chad Crabill, both of Dubuque, had just completed the run. It was their second year coming out for the event.
“It’s definitely a great cause,” Ryan said. “We’re not avid runners, but this is a neat run in a unique space. You don’t get to run on a runway every day.”Telegraph Herald