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Run for Courage director hits the trails to fight sex trafficking

Familiar Faces
By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
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For one local lady, awareness is key when combating sex trafficking. Ashlie Bryant is the executive director for the Run for Courage, a 5K or 10K race which raises money to combat sex trafficking in the U.S. How did the ideas for the Run for Courage come about? Before reading the book “Just Courage” by Gary Haugen, I was largely unaware of the crime of minor sex trafficking in foreign countries of minors overseas. Close on the heels of this, I discovered that this horrible crime also occurs here in the United States. Unfortunately, I learned this because the crime affected our hometown. Touched by these events, I e-mailed my close friends and asked them if they were aware of this crime. A week later there were four of us sitting around my kitchen table trying to decide how we could combat this crime together. We began by speaking to different groups in our community to spread awareness. This was effective, but we felt like we were not doing enough. We needed to reach more people. Then it occurred to us to hold of a run. I am a 20-year cancer survivor this year and have run many cancer research races. But, we didn’t want this to be just another “fun run.” We wanted to have a real race. One that was measured and timed. At the same time, we did not want to exclude families and walkers. Run for Courage: The Race to End Sex Trafficking was born. How do you utilize the money that’s raised? At Run for Courage, we have many responsibilities. The two most important are funding programs that restore victims of sex trafficking and making sure that we are very careful with our sponsors’ and runners’ donated funds. In California, we are blessed to have so many amazing organizations that help restore these precious victims. In order to evaluate each program, we have created our Evaluate-Donate-Monitor methodology. Our donation committee, headed up by a former social worker, uses this methodology to determine those beneficiaries to whom we will contribute. What do you love most about what you do? I feel so fortunate to do what I do. I love being a mom and working with the Run for Courage team, which totals 15 incredible volunteer men and women. It is an amazing team that I thank God for each day. What a blessing it has been to play a small part in impacting the lives of these young victims. What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you? The most interesting thing that has happened to me was while I was traveling with an all-French group in the former Soviet Union in 1988. I was stopped by the guard patrol at the airport in Leningrad. I was the last one off the plane and while in the kiosk, the guards were very serious and asked me many questions. I thought it was because I was an American traveling with an all-French group. But, Ronald Regan had been there almost exactly a year earlier and had asked Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and so they were making sure I was just there as a tourist and nothing else. Where are your three favorite places to travel? My three favorite places are Paris, because Ray and I had a chance to live there after we were married, Belize because Ray and I celebrated my 40th birthday there, and Changsha, China because we adopted our precious daughter Grace there. What is your favorite movie and why? My favorite movie is “Driving Miss Daisy.” I just loved the friendship between Katherine Hepburn and Morgan Freeman. What hobbies do you enjoy? My favorite hobbies include reading my Bible, spending time with my kids and running or working out at the gym. Tell us about your family. I am married to Ray Bryant, 20 years. We grew up in the Bay Area, and have lived in North Carolina, Kansas, Illinois and France. We have four incredible children — David, 14, Grace, 11, Matthew, 9, and Jonathan, 6. We have lived in El Dorado Hills for eight years. We are an active bunch. We love to bike, hike, snow ski, water ski and swim in the ocean. * * * Run for Courage When: 8 a.m. for 10K run, 8:05 a.m. for 5K run, Saturday Where: Folsom Parkway trails, Folsom Information: http://runforcourage.com