One of our favorite things at Courage Worldwide is watching our supporters use their gifts, their talents, and their passions to join the fight against sex trafficking. Their stories are powerful and every voice adds to our collective roar! In honor of our upcoming triathlon in August, we wanted to share Dawn Hershberger’s story, as the founder and organizer of our annual Courage Triathlon.
In 2014, I went to Bayside Church to watch my son give his testimony. Before he went on stage, Jenny Williamson stood on stage and said, “We live in a world where children are sold for sex.” She said she would continue to fight for these kids until the day she died. There was no moving music, no call for sponsors, only the facts of why she was fighting for these kids.
Being in law enforcement, I knew of victims. I knew of trauma and exploitation. Listening to Jenny on that day, I could not stop thinking I needed to do something for these kids. For 3 months, I poured over the Internet, looking at the problem of child sex trafficking in America. I found out how severely lacking we were in providing services to victims.
While at work one day, I shared with my friend, Jo, all I had learned about children being sold for sex and the lacking services. She was quickly on board, saying, “Yes, yes, we should do something!” In three months, we formed a run in Antelope Lake where all proceeds would go to Courage Worldwide. We used the motto: “We run so they don’t have to.” We raised $3,100 for the event, not knowing anything about creating or putting on an event to raise money.
The following year, Jo suggested we change the event to become a triathlon, where participants could run, bike, and kayak. We went to Lake Almanor and started looking at trails and shorelines to see if they would work for such an endeavor. At a stop for lunch at the Plumas Pines Resort, the owner ended up suggesting we host the event there; it did end up being the location for the 1st Courage Triathlon. The number of participants that first year blew us away—we had to go bigger for the second year as the number was larger than we anticipated!
The triathlon grew in numbers and popularity. I began speaking to law enforcement groups, faith-based groups, and rotary clubs, all to increase awareness and get sponsors the facilitate each year’s triathlon. It grew into traveling and telling the stories of victims. I was going to trainings with the FBI and with Courage Worldwide to learn more about sex trafficking.
In 2020, COVID hit us hard. We held a virtual event, even though we desperately wanted to keep running person. We ended up still raising $18,000! God is bigger than our circumstances!
The following year, the Dixie Fire ripped through our counties and the triathlon course. As the course at the Plumas Pine Resort was mostly burned, we were unable to get the permit needed to move forward at that location due to safety reasons. The community came to us and offered the use of the Lake Almanor Country Club, undamaged by the fire. Our numbers that year were lower, but our passion could not be burnt or taken away—to serve, to protect, and to give hope to those in need.
Fast forward to the upcoming 9th annual Courage Triathlon, still held at the Lake Almanor Country Club. We have formed some amazing friendships within the Club and community, and the value of all who help each year cannot be stated enough. It takes 88-100 volunteers to make our event happen. It takes many people and businesses sponsoring or providing in-kind services to make the event the high caliber it is!
The Courage Triathlon is not only an event to raise funds, but is an event that brings hope and a future to trafficking survivors, in addition to many in the local community. As Jenny said back when I first saw her, “I will fight until the day I die.” We at the Courage Triathlon will follow your lead and continue.
Sign up for this year’s triathlon!
While you run, bike, and kayak (or paddleboard!), you are making a huge difference in the lives of those who have been trafficked.
Whether you organize an event, bring awareness to your community, or provide financial support, we all have a role to play in ending sex trafficking. Thank you for your support, in all of its forms. We are grateful for you!
Thank you to the sponsors for this year's triathlon!
Additional thanks to:
Doug Cain Sound Systems
The Stolaruk Family
Timothy O'Brian - Caldwell Banker