“They made us go from truck to truck… and then I had to have sex with another guy that I didn’t even know.” Sheri, age 15. Most of us drive down the road and pass by houses, buildings, alleys and rest areas, but all we ever see is the wood, brick, steel, and pavement. However, when you live in a neighborhood or are part of a community, you notice homes instead of houses and livelihoods instead of businesses. I’ve spent years living and working in some of the roughest cities and neighborhoods in the US. Over time and through relationships, I began to know who lived where and what types of activities went down in certain houses and alleys. With over 2.5 million US truck drivers on the road, no one knows what happens on our nation’s highways better than they do. There is no better example of this than a driver named Willie. When en route from Minnesota to Detroit, Willie took the time to notice that something wasn’t right as he watched a very young girl “working” the lot. What he didn’t know was that she was 15, and along with her 14 year old cousin,  had been kidnapped from Toledo and forced into child prostitution. They were US child trafficking victims. The FBI estimates that well over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11. The FBI has rescued close to 2000 sexually exploited kids in the past 3 years. This past year we have produced a film that tells this story. At the time, we didn’t even know which trucker made the anonymous 911 call that led to the rescue of the Toledo teens. At a recent screening of the film, we were amazed when someone recognized the caller’s voice.  Just 15 seconds of a garbled 911 call and the viewer says, “I know that voice!”  Within moments he confirmed that it was his friend Willie. Willie’s simple phone call not only rescued these two teens but broke open a 13 state trafficking ring that rescued seven other minors and led to the arrest of 39 victimizers. In the film, Sheri’s mom says, “If it weren’t for that trucker, that trucker who made the call, I don’t know what we would have done. If he ever sees this… thank you, thank you, thank you!” For over five years, Willie had no knowledge that his call saved so many lives. Willie did “see this” and has been in contact with the family. I had the privilege of meeting Willie and he told me that he has watched the film more times than he can count and it is one of the proudest moments of his life. Wille, his lovely wife Jan and their two Chihuahuas, joined us recently at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas where over 40,000 industry professionals were in attendance. iEmpathize has a collaborative partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). Our goal for the truck shows is to engage the trucking industry in the fight against child trafficking in the US. Drivers, trucking companies, travel plazas/truck stops, and a myriad of industry related businesses are enthusiastically coming on board. This translates to literally thousands of individuals seeing our training films and being equipped through TAT’s programs to safely intervene in child trafficking scenarios. Over 100 truckers have made calls from over 30 states with reports of victims being assisted. Stay tuned for updates and thank you for supporting us by connecting us to your relationships in the travel industry, and through volunteerism and donations!

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Author: iempathize