Editors Note: As of 6/28/16 the Okoboji 200 team has raised over $93,000 towards their $100,000 fundraising goal.
“We ride so they can be free”
An intense ride that was once for personal achievement is now being used as a platform to tell people about an injustice that happens not just worldwide but also in their own cities. More than 50 people will be participating in an annual 200-mile bike ride from West Des Moines, Iowa to Lake Okoboji on June 24th to raise money and awareness so that victims of sex trafficking would be rescued and restored.
According to statistics, an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children worldwide are victims of human trafficking, which is 9 times the total population of the state of Iowa. An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture and neglect.
“This is a real problem, and it’s not just a problem somewhere else in the world, it’s a problem RIGHT HERE in the United States. We want people to know how serious this issue is and that it is continuing to grow,” said Board Member Pete Basso.
They came up with a three-pronged strategy so people would know about this issue that includes, one, promote awareness through the means of social media, press, outreach functions and more; two, partner with strategic people who are creating ways to extract victims from this heinous injustice; and three, produce results that show we are making a difference for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Five years ago, four guys set out to ride 200 miles in one day to say ‘we did it’. Now, not only is this ride annual but they have also turned it into something that truly impacts the world. To date, OK200 has raised $110 thousand and only plans to increase that number. The group has already surpassed the halfway mark of their $100 thousand goal this year.
The money raised will go to two organizations; Lighthouse Foundation in Nepal and local restoration homes in Des Moines. The money supported for LHFN will go directly to providing shelters for sex trafficking survivors. These hostels give their residents – shelter, nourishment, medical care, education, Christian teaching, and a sense of purpose and importance. The restoration homes in Des Moines are also for trafficking survivors. The homes serve teens and youth specifically that were recovered. The homes stand on 4 pillars– Physical Health, Mental Well-Being, Spiritual Recovery and Skills. At the homes, survivors will have consistent, predictable and reliable caregivers.
“[OK200] would not be possible without [our family, friends and community],” said Basso. “Each year we have had double digit increases in donations and rider participants. The generosity of our connections have been humbling, to say the least.”