Run of their lives

DAWSON – Seven runners recently set out from the South Dakota border on a two-week run across the state to raise awareness of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Six young women, students at St. Cloud State University, and Paul Hurckman, executive director of Venture Expeditions, set off along U.S. Highway 212 on Saturday, expecting to reach Stillwater soon.

“We’re running across the state over the next two weeks to raise money and awareness about human trafficking,” said Dani Towner of Dawson. “Venture Expeditions is an organization that uses biking, running and hiking to raise awareness about some of the world’s greatest injustices.”

On Sunday, the group was conveyed to the previous day’s finishing point at the intersection of U.S. Highway 212 and U.S. Highway 75 to begin the day’s run.

“Venture Expeditions was started 12 years ago by three college students who decided to bike across America,” Paul Hurckman said. “They’d never biked before, but by the end of the tour they’d raised $17,000 for a community in Central America.”

Hurckman said he’d been on the board before and participated with his wife in an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise money for orphans in Kenya.

“Afterwards we said this is what we want to be a part of,” Hurckman said. “Nowadays, we have 120 participants on tour, 13 tours a year, hiking, biking and running, domestic and international. The longest is a bike trip across country, the shortest is a bike trip across Minnesota.”

Paul’s dad Jim Hurckman was also along, driving the support van.

Venture Expeditions raises money through donations from church speaking engagements, friends, sponsors and social media for causes such as clean air and water issues, food security, extreme poverty, human trafficking, orphans, malaria and HIV awareness.

“I heard about it through Chi Alpha, which is a church group on campus,” said Nicole Penner from Thief River Falls.

The word spread through Chi Alpha members.

“I was at the same meeting,” said Kata Rabago of Blaine. “In the back of my mind I didn’t think I was going to do it – but here I am!”

Word spread through friends and speakers at university Bible study groups.

“I was only going to do a 5K,” said Sara Menning of St. Cloud. “Then Dani asked me to run across the state, and I laughed in her face. Then I realized I can’t run just for myself, I have to have support.”

The runners continued on to Dawson where they had dinner with Towner’s family Sunday night. The next day they set off on the next leg to Springfield.