On September 23rd, 2021, CHILDREN AT RISK celebrated North Texas and honored local leaders working to end human trafficking and child exploitation with our first ever Speaking Up + Speaking Out Luncheon. North Texas community leaders, advocates, and trafficking survivors gathered to raise awareness and celebrating some phenomenal local leaders. 

Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy senior, Archer Mcintyre, kicked off the day’s program with an invocation. He reminded the crowd to take a deep breath and to be present for the powerful information and personal stories to come.

CHILDREN AT RISK President & CEO Dr. Bob Sanborn spoke on the current demand for trafficking and other forms of child exploitation.

“Unfortunately, human trafficking is still very much an issue in our society and our state,” said Dr. Sanborn.

A CHILDREN AT RISK study of suspected illicit massage businesses, cash-only businesses believed to serve as fronts for prostitution and trafficking, identified over 900 illicit businesses operating in plain sight in the state of Texas. In Dallas County alone, 266 illicit businesses were identified. There are approximately 140 Starbucks in the same area, to put that in perspective.

“While the data makes it very clear we have a problem, we know that research alone is not enough,” said Dr. Sanborn. “We must ensure those working on the ground have the tools and resources they need to go after traffickers and empower survivors. We must ensure individuals who have been trafficked are provided with the physical, mental, and financial support they deserve. We must examine and dismantle the systems and oppressions that put children at greater risk from foster care and juvenile justice to poverty and limited access to mental healthcare.”

Filmmakers and CHILDREN AT RISK collaborators Sadhvi Siddhali Shree and Sadhvi Anubhuti shared a first look at their upcoming film, Surviving Sex Trafficking. CHILDREN AT RISK was honored to be included in their first documentary, Stopping Traffic, and is proud to serve as an associate producer of their newest feature. Surviving Sex Trafficking is set to premiere in March 2022.

CHILDREN AT RISK North Texas Advisory Board Chair Genai Walker Mackling and Vice-Chair Chris Wallace introduced the event’s special honorees. The individuals honored exemplify leadership in the North Texas community and drive positive change with their local communities, inspiring action statewide and across many facets of child well-being. They are the threads that build our state into a more beautiful, connected, and safe home for children.

Ty Bowden, Associate Director of the Net of Fort Worth, was honored for his efforts to end demand for sex trafficking. He has trained dozens of men to engage and disrupt potential sex buyers over the last several years and personally interacted with hundreds of buyers throughout Texas. We thank Ty for his continuous efforts in fighting for justice across Texas.

Mark and Terry Demler were honored for their work with Project Moses. As founders of Project Moses, Mark and Terry’s ministry promotes education and awareness in our community through speaking engagements, mentoring survivors, and providing essential living support. CHILDREN AT RISK is thankful for their ongoing outreach and collaboration to support survivors.

Tonya Stafford was honored for her work as the founder of It’s Going To Be OK!. Stafford founded It’s Going to Be OK! in 2014 with the vision to eradicate human trafficking one survivor at a time through rescue, restoration, and education. Tonya’s commitment to the safety of women, young girls, and children is a bright light within the DFW community.

Chad Frymire of Dallas CASA was honored for his many years of service in the fight to end child sex trafficking. Frymire has served as program director for 13 years with Dallas CASA. He is also the president of the North Texas Coalition Against Human Tracking, serves on the Governor’s Office Children Sex Trafficking Multi-Disciplinary team, and serves on the board of three other nonprofit organizations. Frymire’s collaborative leadership is a shining example for the entire state of Texas.

Special Agent John Kochan of Homeland Security Investigations was honored for his work on the frontlines to rescue trafficking victims and stop traffickers. Special Agent Kochan has been working in law enforcement since 1998 and conducts investigations in child sex trafficking with Homeland Security Investigations. We thank Special Agent Kochan for his deep passion and tireless efforts to keep children safe!

Bekah Charleston, a nationally respected anti-trafficking advocate and trafficking survivor served provided the keynote address. Charleston shared her personal story of survival after enduring a decade of abuse and exploitation. She built a career dedicated to the empowerment of survivors. In 2013, she launched Bekah Speaks Out to provide customized training and consultancy services to law enforcement, service providers, and community leaders.

Bekah spoke on the great need for folks to not just listen to survivors but to act through donating their time and energy or advocating alongside organizations like children at risk and the many other organizations and survivors present today.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” said Charleston. “Many of the experiences that made me vulnerable to trafficking could have been prevented.”

When Bekah isn’t busy advocating, sharing her story, or pushing national-level change, she’s supporting fellow survivors. Charleston recently launched E2E Realty Group to help herself and other survivors become finically free through careers in real estate. E2E Reality is survivor-owned and staffed, located in the DFW metroplex with plans to expand statewide. 

On behalf of CHILDREN AT RISK, thank you to all who came out to support the luncheon. We especially want to thank our Demanding Change Sponsor, Kroger! Kroger has been a supporter of CHILDREN AT RISK for more than four years. We are so glad to have their engagement on our North Texas Advisory Board by way of April Martin, Corporate Affairs Manager for Kroger’s Dallas Division. We are grateful for Kroger’s generous support for this event, as well as our collaborative efforts to ensure all children have access to nutritious meals.

Thank you as well to our other generous sponsors, the North Texas Commission, Carol Wise, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Cook Children’s Health Care System, Hillwood, Independent Financial, and NEC. Without their support, this event would not have been possible. Thank you for helping us shine a light on this critical topic and allowing us to celebrate local heroes in the fight against human trafficking.

Looking to get involved?

  • Donate to sustain our research and advocacy efforts and help us tackle the systemic issues that fuel human trafficking.
  • Sign-up for our newsletter for regular updates on our work, other event invites, and opportunities to advocate and engage!
  • Connect with us! Send us an email at info@childrenatrisk.org. We are always interested in new ways to partner and collaborate on behalf of Texas children and families.

MORE LIKE THIS