Inspired by the story of a 13-year-old Wichita girl forced into the sex trade, a suburban mom has put together a donation drive to help fight the sexual exploitation of children in Wichita.
The drive aims to collect items, such as clothing and bottled water, to help the Wichita Children's Home Street Outreach program. It will be held Tuesday at Heroes Sports Bar and Grill in Old Town.
Jennifer White, a portrait photographer and mother of two daughters from Andover, organized the drive after reading an Eagle report on the trafficking of children last month.
"After reading the article I was heartbroken and
sickened at what is happening right in our back yard," White wrote on her blog last week.
Using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, White began finding others who wanted to know what they could do to help.
"I think this is really amazing," said Risa Rehmert, director of Street Outreach. "She's just really taken off with this."
White said last week she soon became overwhelmed with responses from civic organizations and churches and even received contact from international organizations fighting trafficking.
As a first step, they organized this week's donation drive for Street Outreach, which tries to get teens off the streets and into safe homes.
Most of the children being exploited sexually for money are runaways trying to escape abusive homes, research shows. They end up being forced into the sex trade to survive, authorities and researchers say.
"The thought of either of my girls being harmed by anyone makes me ill," White wrote online. "So how do we turn our backs on children who are being harmed in the worst imaginable ways?"
Among top needs, Rehmert said, are sleeping bags, women's underwear (sizes 5 through 9) and ankle socks.
"A clean pair of socks is important to a kid if they've been wearing the same pair for weeks," Rehmert said.
Rehmert said the program also uses gift cards in $5 increments to fast-food franchises.
"It gives them a hot meal and it gives us a chance to sit down and talk to them," Rehmert said.
"And Pop-Tarts," Rehmert said. "They're not really nutritious, but the kids love them."
White is also recruiting people to attend a volunteer training session for Street Outreach on Tuesday at the Wichita Children's Home.
Items collected at Heroes on Tuesday will be delivered to the training session that night.