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Saturday event to educate public on human trafficking, raise funds

An event to educate the public on child human trafficking and raise money for the issue will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. in Picayune.

The event will be in the Crosby Commons and will feature guest speakers Chris Wagner, Chief of Police for the Picayune School District, and local author Jodell Onstott, a biblical researcher.

The speakers will discuss signs of human trafficking, important information to record if something seems suspicious and how to report that information, said organizer Billy Petrick.

“If you don’t see what something is how can you combat it?” he said.

The event will also feature raffle items donated by local businesses, including corn hole wraps, a fragrance pack, floundering lights and gift certificates.
Of the money fund raised, 80 percent will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit focused on sex trafficking, and 20 percent will be given to the Picayune Police Department “for supplies for local victimized kids,” said Petrick.

Petrick and his wife have a 16 month old son, and began looking into the information surrounding the #saveourchildren. While a lot of the information they found connected to the hashtag was unreliable, the couple was heartbroken after reading the statistics about human trafficking, said Petrick.
They decided to quickly put together an event to raise money and awareness, while the topic was forefront in public discussions.

“There’s been overwhelming support from the community, so we’re really excited,” he said.

Almost 30 local businesses have come together to sponsor the event. Along with the raffle, the event will also include catering from Sho-Nuff BBQ and Southern Delight Snowball Stand, pizza from Domino’s, eight vendors from the Picayune Farmer’s Market and corn hole. Crafters interested in selling items to contribute to the event can contact Petrick.

Everyone who attends is encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, like practicing social distancing and wearing a face mask.

Petrick encourages attendees to bring their kids, to help educate them on the topic.