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Kirkland man helps start climbing group to end slavery

Sam Wicks, 14, grew up watching his father Ben Wicks use his love of climbing to combat slavery in India.

Now, it’s Sam’s turn to go.

“I tried to climb Mount Rainier with my dad when I was 11, but I couldn’t make it to the top,” said Sam, who lives in Bothell. “I really want to make it all the way to the top and help support the team.”

Father and son are going with the group Climb for Captives that Ben formed in 2008 to climb Mount Adams, the second tallest mountain in Washington State, this year. It is their largest campaign yet, with 26 climbers from five states rallying to raise $75,000. The climb took place on Aug. 10-12.

Ben and his friends, including Kirkland resident Rob Garey who co-founded the initiative, started the group after they learned about human trafficking shortly before a planned climb up Mount Rainier. They decided to use their passion for adventure to raise money to fight modern-day slavery, and the vision of Climb for Captives was born.

“Climb for Captives is a group of friends who love adventure and want to make the world a better place,” Ben said. “There are more slaves in the world today than any other time in history, and our hope is that the climb provides an opportunity to raise awareness about human trafficking and a unique way for people to engage in the fight against slavery.”

Climb for Captives is an initiative that uses mountaineering to help rescue children from slavery and forced prostitution. Each year, Climb for Captives partners with a non-profit and sends them 100 percent of the funds raised in order to have the largest impact possible. This year, the climbers are partnering with Rescue: Freedom International, a non-profit organization working to rescue women and children from sexual slavery and ensure that survivors of human trafficking receive the holistic care they need to experience restoration.

“The message of Climb for Captives is that anyone can leverage their passions to make an impact,” Garey said. “We choose to fight by climbing mountains, but for someone else, that could mean running a marathon, hosting a dinner party, or organizing a concert.”

Since the group formed, their climbs have raised over $120,000 to rescue women and children from sexual slavery.

The group varies in how they approach fundraising every year. Ben and his family send out emails and use social media to spread the word, while other members take on a more creative approach, such as shaving each eyebrow if they receive $1,000.

“Usually as soon as we tell people why we are doing this, they are eager to help,” Ben said. “The cause speaks for itself.”

The group is hoping to raise $75,000 total this year. Ben says $50,000 is what it takes to fund a rescue shelter for a full year and any extra money goes toward college scholarships for the rescued girls.

“Many of the girls at the shelter say they want to become nurses or counselors so they can come back and help other victims of human trafficking,” Ben said.

There are an estimated 27 million people in slavery and approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls. Human trafficking is a lucrative business, generating roughly $32 billion every year, making it the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

“Our message is to use what you love to do to end what you hate,” Garey said.

Ben said it is fun, but challenging to climb.

“It is hard to get to the top both mentally and physically,” Ben said. “I told Sam we have to think of his two sisters while we are up there to motivate ourselves. If Sam and I weren’t around we’d want to know people are fighting for our girls; and the girls in India get to know that there are men here in Seattle and Bothell fighting for them.”

To donate and learn more about the Wicks’ cause, visit www.climbforcaptives.com.

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