Relief Society, community to hold fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad

Relief Society, community to hold fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad

(Linda Hutchings)

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SPRINGVILLE — What started out as a fundraiser organized by one Relief Society in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has turned into a large, community-wide event.

Saturday, the community will gather to enjoy food, activities and live entertainment as participants learn about and benefit the local nonprofit organization Operation Underground Railroad, according to Linda Hutchings, Relief Society president and chairwoman of the event.

Operation Underground Railroad works to rescue children that are sold into sex slavery, according to Doug Osmond, vice president of corporate development.

Osmond will speak to event attendees about Operation Underground Railroad at 9:30 a.m. and share updates from the latest missions the organization has been on. He will also talk about upcoming plans and how this event will help the organization “save kids from this horrific crime,” he said.

At the event, there will be a yard sale, a bake sale, a silent auction, a $1 barbecue, children’s games, face painting and moon art, Hutchings said.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Department will teach fingerprinting and provide details about the radKIDS program, and several local entertainers, including Utah Old Time Fiddlers, will perform for attendees. Lui Castro will be the DJ for the event, Hutchings said.

All of the proceeds will go toward Operation Underground Railroad, Hutchings said.

The two vendors attending the event, Bibbidi Bobbidi Balloons and Religious Fine Art Design, will donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the organization.

Religious Fine Art Design will be selling jewelry boxes designed by Vahe Zeynalyen specifically for the girls who are rescued by Operation Underground Railroad. Ten percent of those proceeds and all of the jewelry boxes sold will be presented to Operation Underground Railroad at the end of the event, according to Angela Brady, co-chairwoman of the event who also works with Religious Fine Art Design.

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Each attendee who purchases a jewelry box can personalize it with a card inside for the girl they are buying it for, even though they won’t know who she is, Hutchings said.

The event was organized by the Relief Society of the Kolob 9th ward, but after speaking with members of local businesses and the community, 37 local businesses, the BYU Anti-Human Trafficking Club from Brigham Young University, individuals coming from as far as Farmington, Terry Kohler, a veteran with Team Veteran in Salt Lake, and Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, will be there, Hutchings said.

Eight representatives from Operation Underground Railroad will also attend the event and will sell T-shirts and visors to earn money for its rescue missions, Hutchings said.

Hutchings said that human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to drugs.

Everyone we talk to either knows someone, has someone in their family or personally has been molested, and so it's one of those silent problems and people don't talk about it, especially here.

–Linda Hutchings

“My feeling is people who are involved with drugs, they have some choice in that, you know, they don’t necessarily have to do that.” Hutchings said. “But these children have no option. I mean, they are totally victimized and have no hope unless someone goes in there and brings them out, so that’s a huge incentive.”

Another factor in supporting Operation Underground Railroad is that Utah has a higher rate of child sexual abuse than the national average, Hutchings said.

Hutchings said one in three girls and one in six boys in Utah will be sexually molested before they reach 18.

“That’s really shocking,” Hutchings said. “And then everyone we talk to either knows someone, has someone in their family or personally has been molested, and so it’s one of those silent problems and people don’t talk about it, especially here.”

This event will take place Saturday at Legends Motorcycles at 1715 W. 500 South, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry is free.

Operation Underground Railroad is currently assisting in the search for Elizabeth Salgado. To learn more about Operation Underground Railroad, visit its website.


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Megan Marsden Christensen


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