(WSVN) - Making people aware of the horrors of human trafficking is a mission for one Broward man. To call attention to the problem, Roger DeHart walked more than 1,000 miles from Fort Lauderdale to the nation’s capital. 7’s Brandon Beyer has more on how he stepped up to shed light on a serious problem.
His first steps started with fanfare. Roger DeHart left the Broward County courthouse last March on the journey of a lifetime.
Roger DeHart, walked to Washington, D.C.: I did a total of 1,025 miles, I believe.”
He walked all the way from Fort Lauderdale to the nation’s capital to let people know human trafficking is real and a threat to our children.
Roger DeHart: “What first got my attention: when I found out South Florida was like number three in the country when it came to human trafficking.”
As a Broward court bailiff, Roger met victims and survivors — like Lina Thompson, who was trafficked in her teens.
Lina Thompson: “The life I was having at that time was living hell. All we need is the community to believe in us and to get involved with it, because it’s a problem.”
Lina’s story inspired him to make the long, grueling walk.
Roger DeHart: “To see how she was so open about her life and what she had gone through, I felt that I had no choice.”
And so he walked through Florida along U.S. 1, averaging about 22 miles a day.
Roger DeHart: “Once I saw the ‘Welcome to Georgia sign,’ I felt like, ‘OK, this is gonna work. I’m going to make this.'”
In good weather and bad, Roger spread the word. People followed his journey on Facebook, watching him walk through five states.
As he walked, he inspired others to get involved as well.
Lady, Myrtle Beach: “Hi, Roger, this is for you to bring awareness to the cause!”
When each day’s walk was done, Roger stayed in hotels or with new friends he made along the way.
Jim, retired police officer: “What’s up, Rog?”
He met Jim, a retired police officer who shadowed him all the way to D.C.
Roger DeHart: “He took ownership from South Carolina on that I wouldn’t be by myself.”
Roger walked through the Carolinas and into the hills of Virginia — sometimes with police escorts, sometimes alone with cars whizzing close by. In almost every town, he got hugs and support from all kinds of people.
Roger DeHart: “I was overwhelmed with generosity and compassion and hospitality.”
And finally, on Day 50, he arrived at the nation’s capital.
Family and friends, including Lina, were there to celebrate.
Lina Thompson: “For me, it was a honor to be there and meet him in the end of his walk. It was just great.”
From beginning to end, it’s a journey he’ll never forget.
Roger DeHart: “I don’t think I still grasp the impact of all. It was so much, and it’s going to remain with me for the rest of my life.”
He says he’ll continue to stay involved, giving a voice to victims of human trafficking who can’t speak for themselves.
Roger says that next year, he hopes to put away his sneakers and charter a bus to travel the Southeast, holding rallies at high schools and college campuses — all to help educate young people about the dangers of human trafficking.
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