Women’s cycling team visits Santa Cruz, highlights sex trafficking abuse – Santa Cruz Sentinel | #tinder | #pof | #match | #sextrafficking


SANTA CRUZ — More than halfway through their month-and-a-half voyage, a dozen young women pedaled into Santa Cruz this week with the aim to shine a light on the unspoken underworld of human trafficking.

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell, center, poses Tuesday with 12 Pedal the Pacific participants who are raising funds and awareness around human trafficking. (Jessica A. York — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Amateurs in both long-distance cycling and advocacy, participants in this year’s Pedal the Pacific campaign secured the ear of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office for their efforts, with help from the Rotary Club of Santa Cruz and the Capitola-based Arukah Project.

“I think one thing that brings us all together is that trafficking happens everywhere we live,” Pedal the Pacific member Hannah Odell, 20, of Texas, said Tuesday morning to a room of county officials at the Santa Cruz County Government Center. “So, we’re all from different places but the uniting factor is that sex trafficking happens in Austin, Texas and Arkansas and Missouri. In all these places, sex trafficking is happening right below our noses.”

The group set off June 11, accompanied by a solid week’s worth of rain, from Seattle. The group’s goal is to reach San Diego within 51 days and to raise $170,000 – $100 for every mile they will travel on behalf of the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit organization. Fundraising proceeds will be split between the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and The Refuge Ranch in Texas. A Rotary hosted dinner event Monday was expected to raise some $7,000 toward the effort, members said Tuesday.

Riding for a cause

The Pedal the Pacific women – ranging in age from 20 to 23 – have honed their educational pitch for spontaneous roadside meet-ups with strangers, members told the Sentinel on Tuesday. Having a formal audience with government officials, they said, was an unusual treat.

Ellie Rudy, 22, of Austin, Texas, shared a story about the emotional moment when she had to say goodbye to her loved ones before setting off on the trip. Rudy’s mother, she said, gave her some sage going-away advice.

“We have so many people keeping tabs on us and making sure that we’re safe. (My mother) was like a lot of these girls that you’re riding for don’t have that or are trying to escape a home that isn’t safe enough,” Rudy said. “So there’s something really beautiful that while we are missing our families and what’s safe and comforting to us, we’re riding so these girls that we’re riding for have that and eventually have that same level of security.”

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