AngelaHuston@zoominternet.net   CRHuston@zoominternet.net

In 2015, Brunswick High School graduates and best friends Nate Vermote and Kurtis Tolley approached the Medina County Coalition Against Human Trafficking to promote the idea for a 5K run after learning about the extent of this horrific problem. The two determined and passionate young men were instrumental in starting what has become a successful annual event with the goal of raising awareness and hopefully ending human trafficking.

Sadly, one week after the first Run to Freedom, Vermote passed away. With the blessing of his family, and in his honor, the event was renamed in 2016 to the Nate Vermote Run to Freedom.

In addition to what Nate gave to this cause and all that he continues to give through his spirit, this Run to Freedom allows the Medina County Coalition Against Human Trafficking to provide community and workplace training, educate school and library staff, and offer missing children's posters to hotels through the S.O.A.P. project.

On the morning of July 28, the fifth annual Nate Vermote Run to Freedom one mile/5K courses took place, beginning and ending at Medina's Historic Public Square. Supporters came from all directions for this worthy cause.

The family of Nate Vermote was led by his mother Monica Vermote, his sister Jessica Vermote, grandparents Richard Kohler and Anna Hickle, aunts and uncles Betty Hickle, Tom Burill, and Meredith Banchek, and cousins Ronnie and Gina Petrello.

Nate's partner, Kurtis Tolley was again involved in the event along with his wife Savanna, their two young babies Oliver and Stella, his mother Alyce Tolley, brother Dustin Tolley, and cousins Alex and John Ballash.

Kurtis recently completed a three-year military tour of duty in the Army, where he was a member of the Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. He is now in the National Guard and will soon be attending the Police Academy. His mother proudly described him as a "serve and protect kind of guy."

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof was again in attendance and presented a proclamation to Children's Center of Medina County Executive Director Rhonda Wurgler. He told the audience gathered around the Gazebo a bill has recently been passed that will provide greater help for abused and neglected children. He emphatically said, "The message from Columbus is that if you hurt kids, the state is coming after you!"

After the completion of the race, the top three overall male and female runners in the 5K were recognized, along with winners from other age groups as well. Every participant received a goodie bag when they registered that included a medal.

The Coalition was founded in 2014 by Wurgler and Amber McClain. It is a group of concerned individuals who have come together to raise awareness and educate the Medina community about human trafficking. Their mission is "to educate and promote for the prevention and end of human trafficking and to provide help and networks for victims to begin healing."

A few facts about this crime:

*Annual profits from human trafficking - $150 billion (the second largest criminal experience after drug trafficking)

*Every 10 minutes a woman or child is trafficked in the U.S.

*50,000 women and children are trafficked into the U.S. every year

*The average age of entry into human trafficking in Ohio is 12 to 14 years old

*Ohio ranks #4 in the nation for human trafficking, just behind California, Florida, and Texas

*More than 1,000 Ohio children are trafficked every year in the sex trade, while 3,000 more are at risk of becoming victims

*3 out of 4 sex trafficking victims are trafficked online

Concerned citizens can call 888-373-7888 or text "INFO" or "HELP" to 233-733 (befree). All calls are confidential.

Presenting sponsor of this event was MetroHealth. Other generous sponsors included Fraternal Order of Eagles #2224, Chippewa Lake Lions Club, UHC Construction, AAUW, Catholic Charities, Dick's Sporting Goods, The Hickle Family, Rinky Dink, Title Boxing, and Fleet Feet.

Please e-mail humantrafficking@medinacountychildrenscenter.org. to learn more.