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BHS grad to run across state to raise awareness in fight against human trafficking

Former Bemidji High School graduate Courtney Passa runs along Lake Bemidji as she trains to run more than 200 miles across Minnesota starting Sunday to raise awareness in the fight against human trafficking. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Courtney Passa, 22, is one of seven St. Cloud State University students who will take time off from their summer jobs to raise awareness in the fight against human trafficking.

Passa, a Bemidji High School graduate, and her core of friends will run across the state of Minnesota starting Sunday. They’ll start in Watertown, S.D., and end in Prescott, Wis., on July 4.

Along the 221-mile, two-week run, the group will visit and stay at churches and community groups to rally support for the cause. "None of us are runners, not to this extent," Passa said. "I am willing to make myself temporarily uncomfortable to help those who are suffering daily."

The run is not a relay; each participant will run all 221 miles, including one 30-mile day. Each runner will raise $2,595 to donate to Venture Expeditions for help in Southeast Asia, where there is a high percentage of human trafficking of underage girls. The group heard about Venture through their local bible study group at SCSU who have done similar fundraisers in the past. Venture uses the intense physical sacrifices of long-distance running, cycling and hiking tours to provide a platform to speak about injustices of human sex trafficking.

"My first thought, as a college student, was how can you afford to do this," Courtney’s father, Jay Passa, said. "I could tell her stance was firm, this is very important to her, so we said, ‘How can we help?’ I am very proud of her, we will meet up with her on weekends and see how she’s doing."

According to Courtney, she is following a marathon runners training schedule, although she admits she doesn’t look forward to those 18-mile training runs. "I took my first ice bath, that was painful," Passa said earlier this month. The group is not training together but participate in Google Chat once a week to check on each other’s progress.

"My only fear is injuries; we’re all pushing our physical capabilities," she said. "I refuse to sit idly by as this injustice occurs. I strive to put my daily desires aside and commit myself to God’s plan to help those in need and be His hands and feet in this world."