Run being held to raise awareness of child trafficking

REXBURG — Rexburg resident Heidi Fransen, 34, is a passionate person.

So passionate, in fact, that she volunteered to arrange and host the O.U.R. Run To Break The Chain event, which seeks to raise money to fight human sex trafficking. The event is set for Saturday, Sept. 26, at Smith Park.

Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is an organization that helps to liberate children enslaved in the sex trade industry. Using cutting-edge computer technology and human intelligence, O.U.R. undercover teams of former CIA and Special Ops personnel go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement liberate enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks. In just over a year, O.U.R. has liberated over 300 children and arrested numerous traffickers.

“I’ve never gotten into causes very much, but this one really just affected me,” said Fransen. “I had read stories about O.U.R. and what they’ve done. They tell stories about the kids they rescue, and it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Because of how common sex trafficking has become around the world, Fransen said she believes it will bypass drug and arms trafficking, mainly because of the ability to traffic humans over and over again.

Fransen has a family of her own. She and her husband, Alan Fransen, have lived in Rexburg for 12 years. Fransen said she looks at her own children and how important they are to her, and it gives her motivation to help the children enslaved in the sex trafficking.

“It’s horrible, and I think, ‘I can’t go out and save them myself but I can do this,’” Fransen said.

The half marathon will start at 8 a.m., followed by the 10K at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K at 9 a.m. Same-day registration will be available, but runners are encouraged to sign up early. All race participants registered before Sept. 15 will receive a free race T-shirt and swag bag. Participants registered after Sept. 15 will not be guaranteed a T-shirt or swag bag items, as they will be ordered in advance.

The City of Rexburg is sponsoring the event and providing what is needed for the course.

“We have lots of really good organizations helping us,” Fransen said.

Following the races, the #Freedom4All festival will be held for anyone in the community to enjoy. The festival will include bouncy houses, a climbing wall, an obstacle course, various booths and carnival games for kids. A ticket booth will be set up where people can buy tickets and go play games. Proceeds will go toward O.U.R.

“We’re expecting that to be a really big success,” Fransen said. “We’re planning on making it an annual event.”

Setting up the race for O.U.R. isn’t the only way Fransen has gotten involved. She operates the O.U.R. Sweet stand at the Rexburg farmer’s market. She sells chocolate cake, strawberry cake, giant cookies and more. Profits to go O.U.R.

“I just want people to know that O.U.R. is the greatest organization I’ve ever heard of in my life, and [it’s important] to learn about what they’re doing to save these kids,” she said. “People around here have no idea that this happens here and in the United States. I’m trying to come up with things to do to help people figure it out.”