People line up to for a “World Trafficking Day” walk in Winona Lake Thursday. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
People line up to for a “World Trafficking Day” walk in Winona Lake Thursday. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
WINONA LAKE – Approximately 80 people walked during a World Trafficking Day event in Winona Lake Thursday.

Organizer Mikayla Koontz said the event was to “raise awareness for human trafficking and child slavery in accordance with Operation Underground Railroad.”

Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) is a nonprofit founded by Tim Ballard and Mark Stott which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children. The organization has rescued 3,800 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 2,100 traffickers around the world. The partners the organization empowers have collectively helped rescue the lives of more than 10,000 survivors who were enslaved, exploited or at risk, according to its website.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, according to

Koontz said during the event Thursday, they were taking donations, selling shirts and having a silent auction. The amount raised was not tallied and made available as of deadline Thursday. The proceeds went to OUR. During Thursday’s event, about 80 or so people walked through the greenway starting at Winona Lake Park and through Winona Lake.

Koontz was supposed to speak and give statistics before the walk. An area pastor was also supposed to pray before the walk, but neither happened due to the event running late.

The event was in accordance with End Human Trafficking Day Thursday. Due to this, Koontz said different events were taking place across the country “in all of these different areas where people could congregate and rise up.”

Koontz said she knew she wanted to take part, so she went online and the closest event to Kosciusko County was in Noblesville, “so I instantly thought, ‘How do I get this here?’”

Koontz then filled out a volunteer form and worked with OUR to get Winona Lake as a verified event.

As far as what people get out of the event, Koontz said, “The quote I keep hearing is just like, ‘Send an army to take care of these children and these humans that are suffering from this human trafficking.’”

Koontz said there are people that can’t be going to help rescue children that have been trafficked, “but what we can do is aid and facilitate and send donations to the organizations that are doing that outreach. So right now, our donations and our raising awareness is the army we’re sending to do that.”