Cupcakes Can Change The World

Yes, you read the title correctly. Cupcakes can change the world, but that requires two important components, which I will get to later. Today, May 13, 2017, is World Fair Trade Day, a day in which agents for change from around the world join together to promote and mark their commitment to fair trade. This is a topic that we at Free To Run visit periodically, as the power of consumer purchasing has been proven capable of creating change. Socially conscious, or ethical, consumerism is a concept that sees consumers making choices to support positive values, from animal rights, to the environment, to human trafficking. Read more of this post

Free To Run’s Newest Ambassador

Our team of Ambassadors continues to expand, as this month we welcome Aelea Semenowich as our newest Ambassador. Aelea hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she is a professional baker and blogger, but first and foremost, she is a humanitarian and abolitionist. On her website, Love Inspires Change, Aelea covers a variety of topics, such as baking, traveling and lifestyle. She has participated in several humanitarian mission trips, and previously was a fellow at Not For Sale. Aelea first came to Troy in August 2012 for the Not For Sale Tour, and will be back in Troy for our Social Justice Summit on January 28, 2017. We are thrilled to have Aelea as part of our team!


Follow Aelea on Twitter or Instagram

Our New Ambassador!

We are excited to announce a new ambassador has come on board to support Free To Run’s mission of raising awareness of human trafficking and other injustices, and to inspire hope and advocate for change. Annabelle Dura is a dancer, writer, model and opportunity producer, who currently splits her time between Texas and New York City. Read more of this post

An Interview with Juli Accurso

This is day 4 of our 12 Days of Freedom series, and today we are sharing a short video about our ambassador, Juli Accurso. Juli became a Free To Run goodwill ambassador on January 1, 2015, and she is looking forward to another year of raising awareness in the running community about human trafficking.

Running for Freedom in Columbus

We are excited to announce a new program of Free To Run Foundation, supporting two of our Columbus charity partners in addition to our own initiatives for education and prevention in southwest and central Ohio. Team Free To Run is a marathon/half marathon fundraising team formed for the purpose of highlighting the tragedy of human trafficking that is occurring all over the world, but also to bring a message of hope as we work to empower new abolitionists and fund strategic prevention initiatives. Our spotlight event for 2015 is the Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon on October 18, 2015. Free To Run will be exhibiting at the expo the two days before the race, and at the post-race Celebration Village to engage participants and their friends and family on this critical human rights issue.

Also, we are thrilled and appreciative that our goodwill ambassador Juli Accurso will be coming to Columbus to run the half marathon for Team Free To Run. Juli will be in the middle of a busy fall racing season, but she didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to run for freedom in her home state of Ohio.

Juli is Determined to End Slavery.

Juli is Determined to End Slavery.

For more information about Team Free To Run, including how to register, go to the program overview page: We hope you run with us, run for freedom, and take a stand against human trafficking.

A Peek into Sex Trafficking in the Pacific Northwest

Dear Brett,

I researched the current state of human trafficking in the Pacific Northwest, and there is little good news to report. Can I write about something else this month? Something happier? Something more upbeat?



This is an email sandwiched between fiction and nonfiction that I sent/wanted to send to Brett last month. We agreed that this post would be about the condition of human trafficking in the Pacific Northwest. Once I started digging into articles and videos, I wanted to stop reading about it, and I was reluctant to write about it. Because a bleak story is certainly neither easily written nor easily read.

This reaction pinpoints why posts about human trafficking are important. A conversation about human trafficking is hard to start and hard to keep going because the content is heavy, saddening, uncomfortable. But the longer we hesitate to write about it, the longer it will continue to be. The more we discuss, the more palatable it will be. The conversation will lead to greater understanding as well as an opportunity to problem solve. And from there, the story can be read in an upbeat edition.

So, let’s get the conversation started.


  •  I-5, which hugs the coast and extends from Washington to California, is an express lane for human trafficking, with hotbed cities including Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Los Angeles.
  • Human trafficking is also present inland. On 1-90, Anti-Trafficking signs in 7 different languages are posted. 7 different languages!!
  • Most of the sex trafficking occurs at large sporting events in the cities mentioned above: where there is a sea of men, there is a sea of profit.


  • Trafficking has become a cooperative gang business in these cities, rather than a construction of isolated, individual pimps.
  • Gangs target vulnerability; runaways seeking shelter and food, girls searching for attention, (empty) friendships, gifts, (empty) promises for success and fame.
  • Most interactions (gangs and girls, and gangs and customers) occur online. The most-used website for selling girls is


  • Spokane, Washington is one of the inland cities that is confronting sex trafficking. Watch this short clip to learn how a community organization is helping:
  • In Oregon, HB 3040 is on the path to being signed into law. Considering that most saved victims of sex trafficking are unable to testify in court due to the traumatizing psychological and physical abuse they experience, the bill would create hearsay exception for human trafficking victims. Text messages, emails and other recorded statements from victims would be reliable, key pieces of evidence. Victims would have a voice. The bill recently passed in the House and is awaiting approval from the Senate.
    Read more here:
  • A Seattle journalist, Tim Matsui, recently published a film, The Lone Night. It’s a documentary about two young girls’ fall into the sex industry.

Through this post, I discovered a lot about the current situation of sex trafficking in the Pacific Northwest (like, it exists). However, the primary lesson that I will have gleaned will not be about the Portland gangs, the thriving 1-5 sex business, the online recruitment, the 11-18 year-old victims, the drugs, the murders. The lesson is about my initial reflex to the information:

It makes sense that once encountering Bad, we diverge and seek Good. But to ameliorate the Bad and transform it into Good, we must confront it. Learn about it. Talk about it. Read about it. Study it. Taste it like a complex glass of wine. Notice its subtleties in order to critically think about the whole.

I will no longer shy away from the conversation, but instead take part.

***I wanted to provide hard numbers, but the most recent statistics I found quantifying sex trafficking in the PNW are from a 2007 report for the Inland Northwest region and a 2008 report for Seattle. I believe there is data recorded from the last 8 years, but it is troublesome that it is not easily searchable. Because the most recent data is seven years old, it gives the impression that sex trafficking in the Pacific Northwest is no longer an issue. But recent new articles give a different impression.

Interested in the 2007 & 2008 reports? Find them below.

2008 Seattle report:

2007 Inland Northwest report:

Below are recent news articles that shine a light on individuals’ personal sex trafficking stories:

Finding Slave-Free Products without a Fair Trade logo

Last month we explored Fair Trade products and why they bring us closer to ending slavery. Certified Fair Trade items are produced in a slave-free, human rights-respecting environment and with an eco-friendly conscious. Does that mean all non-certified products are tainted with labor abuses and environmental degradation? Fortunately, no.

Many companies function under high & tight code of conduct standards that ensure each step of the manufacturing process respects both human rights and the environment. Unless boasting a Free Trade logo, it can be difficult to identify such products on shelves and among aisles. Thankfully, though, organizations are providing consumers with reliable information about companies’ supply chain and whether or not human trafficking is present.

The most well-known and perhaps densely-compiled site is Free2Work, which is a project of Not For Sale. Through self-reported data and public information, Free2Work ranks companies according to the absence of forced and child labor in their supply chains. You can find whose manufacturing practices are a-ok and whose are not in particular industries including Apparel, Coffee, Sports Equipment, Shoes, Chocolate, Electronics, Jewelry and more.
Companies are “graded” in four different categories. For a busy consumer who quickly wants to know which companies have great practices and which do not, a simple scroll through the listings will show each company and its color-coded grade.

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The ratings are based on a company’s performance related to workers’ rights, monitoring, policies and transparency. Each company is given a score card; we can, in detail, compare why it’s a better choice to shop at H&M rather than Forever 21.

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It was through Free2Work that I learned to what extent my sponsor, Brooks, addresses labor rights. I am overwhelmingly proud to represent a company that values workers’ rights – in the supply chain’s every step! To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products is wonderful. To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products AND respects its suppliers, workers and environment, now that’s striking gold.

imageBrooks is not the sole running apparel company to score well; Champion, Adidas, Reebok, Nike, and New Balance received B- or better. I hope that instills pride in the entire running community! Major running brands are among those leading the fight against human trafficking.

Explore Free2Work and learn which of your favorite companies are also raising a hand against slavery.  You may be surprised by how many brands are doing good in their industries. Below are links to additional resources related to slave-free brands.