‘We run so they can be free’
NDSU couple runs for a cause
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2012 14:05
Most runners lace up their sneakers and sweat through grueling workouts in order to stay in shape or lose weight, but 40 college students are running in the Fargo Marathon on May 18-19 to raise awareness on human trafficking.
Newlyweds Carly Mellgren, a senior majoring in psychology and human development and family science, and Jeff Mellgren, a graduate student in the college of engineering and architecture, organized a group run that will help raise money and awareness against human trafficking for the Run Free Campaign, which is an initiative of Venture Expeditions.
According to the website, Venture Expeditions participants can bike, hike or run for humanitarian causes that “tell stories of injustice, mobilize active support, partner with responsible organizations and establish sustainable ‘injustice-prevention’ projects throughout the world.”
The Mellgrens gathered runners from universities in North Dakota and Minnesota for Run Free, including 30 from NDSU alone. “I think it’s kind of unique that it is going to be all students,” Carly said.
Most of the students participating are also active in campus ministries, such as Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship or Campus Crusades for Christ, among others.
Two years ago, the Mellgrens’ interest in social injustice issues was sparked when they attended a SALT conference hosted by Chi Alpha. At the conference, a few students were participating in a bike-a-thon hosted by Venture Expeditions, which was aiming to raise awareness on human trafficking.
“A lot of people don’t think of [human trafficking] as modern-day slavery, but it really is,” Carly said. “There are more human slaves today than ever before.”
Ever since, Jeff and Carly have been searching for ways they can help. “I always had a vision that I wanted to do a group run for a sweet cause,” Jeff said. “The dream is to have a local group running in various races around Fargo to stir people’s interest.”
Now that dream is a reality. Soon 40 students will be running distances ranging from 3.1 miles all the way to 26.2 miles for the Run Free cause during the Fargo Marathon.
“Running is a way that you can actually sacrifice your own time and your own energy on behalf of these other people who are suffering,” Carly said. “It’s a good way to be proactive and involved in a social injustice and helping others.”
Jeff added that running this race will help him “get a sense of the exhaustion [the victims] must feel” on a daily basis.
Carly will be running the 10K and Jeff will be running the full marathon next Saturday. Unlike her husband, this will be Carly’s first time running in an organized race, and she admits that she is not normally a runner.
“Running stinks all the time,” Carly said, with a laugh. “This cause is really the only reason I’m running … I wouldn’t have run it otherwise.”
In order to acquire runners to participate in this event, Jeff and Carly spoke in front of various campus ministry organizations, such as Chi Alpha, and also got the word out to multiple churches throughout the area.
The main goal for the running participants is to find people willing to sponsor them and donate money. The 40 runners have a goal of raising a combined total of $5,000 for the Run Free cause.
The Mellgrens and the rest of the team have been selling “Run Free” t-shirts for $25, as well as teal bracelets for $2. They are selling these items “so that people can remember [Run Free] and have it in their thoughts and prayers,” Jeff said. “That’s the whole goal … it’s a combination of raising awareness and support.”
Even though this is the first year Jeff and Carly have organized this event in the F-M area, they want to continue raising awareness for this cause for future races, not just the 2012 Fargo Marathon. “We’re hoping for this event to be a continuous thing,” Carly said. “We don’t want it to be this one event and everyone just scatters and is done.”
“The whole idea is to run for something more than just a race,” Jeff added. “Hopefully it just shows the heart of the students to want to run for something more.”
To donate, go to runfreetour.org/2012runners.