Lovette Russell and Stephanie Blank have devoted hours and hours to a cause that is often overlooked or ignored: child sex trafficking. Joining the nonprofit youthSpark (formally known as the Juvenile Justice Fund), these two have fundraising powerhouses have teamed up and put together a duathlon to bring light to the cause and find the Route 2 Change.
Route 2 Change, an innovative multi-sporting fundraiser, will be held on Saturday October 12 at the Georgia World Congress Center. Proceeds from the duathlon will support the work to end child sex trafficking. Unlike many fundraisers, this one requires a lot more than a new dress and a pricey ticket. You will need to train. And Jim Boylan, manager of the Atlanta Triathlon Club has designed an official Route 2 Change Duathlon training schedule. On the website, you can follow his coaching notes and workout schedule and get fit and ready for big day. View the workout here.
By carefully selecting people and businesses in the community to get involved, Russell and Blank have pretty much guaranteed a successful event. Running and Cycling co-chairs are Greg Baranco, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, Thomas Dimitroff, General Manager of the Falcons (who Russell has enjoyed getting to know and who has been “a fire ball about this particular event”) Kelly Loeffler, Co-owner of The Atlanta Dream, Stacey Eames, owner of Highland Bakery and Lila Hertz, community philanthropist.
Last night, September 25, was the official Patron Party for Route 2 Change Duathlon. Held at the Mercedes- Benz of Buckhead, A Legendary Event provided food to the select guests of the evening. With a few exceptions, most of the people on the board of youthSpark were present to support the upcoming event. Lovette, looking stunning in her fitted navy dress and Louboutins, took a few moments to talk about the cause that is dear to her heart and to thank some of the sponsors that have contributed so much already. “I feel like this is going to be a significant event for Atlanta,” Lovette said about the inaugural Route 2 Change Duathlon. “The energy we have behind this race is unlike anything I have ever done.”`
Then, the executive director of youthSpark, Sharon Simpson Joseph, said a few words about their organization. “We are a non-profit group of pioneers who gather together to end child sex trafficking.” She went on to remind the guests of the party that this is a dark and challenging issue. But concluded with saying she has a sense of hope for the future “We dream big,” she says.
It was obvious that each and every person in the crowd was struck by the widespread issue of child sex trafficking. The topic is one that is emotional but sadly very prevalent in the US, especially in cities like Atlanta. Along with various staff and board members of youthSpark, I also had a chance to speak with Jose Drapeau, who just recently got involved in the organization. A former pro cyclist and the first African American cyclist to qualify for the Olympic trials, Jose is definitely ready for the duathlon.
A special thanks was also given to all sponsors including The Coca Cola Foundation, Alston & Bird LLP, G2G Collection and Highland Bakery. There are others who have donated their time, name and support to youthSparks and Route 2 Change including Patron Party Co-Chairs Wendy Babchin and Karlise Grier.
Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones was also struck by this issue of sex trafficking. So much so, in fact, that he has signed on as the official Route 2 Change t-shirt sponsor. Thanks to Jones, all participants will receive a long-sleeved royal blue t-shirt from Under Armour.
To register for the Duathalon or to learn how to volunteer for the event, click here.