Freedom Run

World Race for Hope 5k spreads awareness for human trafficking

By Erin Callahan

Photo:  The World Race for Hope takes place Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. in Troy

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers control victims and force them to engage in commercial sex acts or labor services, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The International Labour Organization estimates it currently affects 20.9 million victims worldwide.

When Brett Bogan learned the severity of this problem, he could not look the other way. As he sat at his desk at work one day six years ago, reading articles about the staggering number of victims, he decided he had to do something. But what could one person do to combat such a large-scale problem?

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m not a social worker, I’m not part of law enforcement … but I am a runner,’” Bogan says. “So as a runner, what can I do to help?”

The answer was simple. Run, so others can be free to run. On New Year’s Day, the Free to Run Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Bogan, will host the World Race for Hope in Troy to support the cause.

Turning Awareness into Action

In 2009, Bogan was working at Relx Group, the parent company of LexisNexis, and began receiving emails about human trafficking and LexisNexis’ involvement in prevention and awareness efforts.

Around the same time, Bogan just had taken over responsibility for a 5k race in Troy. He first became involved with the race in 2007 when it began as a fundraising effort to support his church after a fire. After he stepped in as the new director and the church’s restoration was complete, he began focusing on global outreach, and the new direction developed naturally.

“During 2009 and 2010, everything was falling together,” Bogan says. “I’m taking over the race, Relx and LexisNexis are pushing news out to employees about human trafficking. So I saw this race as a way to educate others and raise awareness for social justice issues.”

Collaboration for a Cause

The World Race for Hope is a collaboration supported by the Free to Run Foundation that spans cities and states. Bogan wanted to expand the effort beyond the city of Troy, so he decided to form the nonprofit to gather the resources necessary to support increased programming. Free to Run was established in 2012, and received official IRS nonprofit status in 2014. Now, the World Race for Hope is just one of the nonprofit’s signature events.

“There are millions of people around the world that don’t have the freedom to just go run,” Bogan says. “Being physically able to run is one thing, but not being able to leave your house like these victims is another thing. We’re running so others can be free to run.”

The Troy race currently benefits two Dayton charity partners, Abolition Ohio and Oasis House.

Abolition Ohio is the Rescue and Restore Coalition against human trafficking in the Miami Valley, with a mission to stir society’s conscience to action against all forms of trafficking and slavery. Oasis House offers support services to women involved in the adult sex industry, including counseling, personal and professional development and more.

Tony Talbott, co-founder and chair of Abolition Ohio, met Bogan through Abolition Ohio meetings and was first involved with the race as a participant. When Bogan suggested Abolition Ohio become a charity partner, Talbott agreed.

“The race’s contribution has been our single biggest private donation so far,” Talbott says. “It’s definitely made an impact, helping us with operating fees as well and raising awareness.”

Spreading the Support

The race started small, but has grown to attract around 200 people each year. For those who can’t make the race, they can still participate via the virtual option. When they sign up, they can still run the 5k wherever, whenever during the entire month of January.

“It’s important that those who can’t make the race can still participate, and know they’re helping,” Bogan says.

Bogan has also organized World Race for Hope events in Columbus and New York City. The long-term goal, Bogan says, is to make it a nationwide event. Since 2012, the races have raised a combined total of $32,395, and an immeasurable amount of awareness.

“When people learn about human trafficking, their initial response is shock. They can’t believe it’s going on, but they’re glad to know about it,” Bogan says.

New Year, New Perspective

Despite the fact the race was already scheduled for New Year’s Day when Bogan became the director, he says it’s the perfect time to show support. January is National Slavery Prevention and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and the New Year is an opportunity to make a resolution for change.

“Often our resolutions are about ourselves, but I think we should consider, ‘What should we do for others?’” he said. “Running or walking the 5k takes only 30 to 60 minutes out of your day, and it may be cold and snowy, but that doesn’t compare to the suffering victims are going through on a daily basis.

“You could do the race and not say a word about human trafficking afterwards, or you could use this as an opportunity to tell others,” he continued. “Do what I did. Look at something you like to do and think about how you can turn that into a way to help others. Not one person has to do everything, but everyone can do something.”

The World Race for Hope takes place Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. in Troy. To register, please visit Registration is $25. For more information, please visit If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, you can reach the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888.


Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at



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Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at

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