Duane Dickey, a Plain City resident, and his son Ryan will rappel 330 feet down the side of the Chase Tower in Columbus Friday as part of Over the Edge. The pair has raised more than $5,000 to support the mission of Gracehaven, an organization that provides housing and residential treatment for minors who were victims of human trafficking. They will join nearly 100 other participants to rappel Friday, like those pictured above during a previous Over the Edge event. (Photo submitted)
Duane Dickey and his son Ryan are afraid of heights.
However unlikely, they’ll spend Friday side-by-side, rappelling 330 feet down the side of the Chase Tower in Columbus.
Ryan said he and his father, a Plain City resident who attends Vista Community Church, will be “relying on prayer” as they participate in Over the Edge.
“I have no fear,” Duane said.
The annual fundraiser supports the mission of Gracehaven, an organization that assists youth who are victims of domestic sex trafficking. Along with case management and treatment, Gracehaven operates the only residential facility in the state that provides housing for minors who were trafficked.
“The tragedy is so horrible; the need is so great,” Events and Public Relations Manager for Central Ohio Youth for Christ Teri Alexander said.
Since human trafficking is “so dark and evil,” Ryan said it can feel easier to avoid speaking about it.
He said participating in Over the Edge “opens the door for tough conversations.”
“It’s a very, very large issue that seems difficult to tackle, but you have to start somewhere,” Ryan said.
Seeking donations and talking with others about Gracehaven encouraged Ryan to research human trafficking and learn more about the signs of abuse so he can advocate for survivors of trauma.
He said most people want to help, but may not know how.
Because of this, the father and son said their fundraising efforts were met with “overwhelming support,” despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The pair has raised over $5,000.
The Dickeys are among nearly 100 fundraisers who will rappel Friday, all aiming to reach a $1 million goal after five years of the event.
Ryan said, despite his fear, rappelling is a “no brainer” if it means supporting Gracehaven’s fight against human trafficking.
He said many people are aware of human trafficking on a global scale, but don’t necessarily recognize its prevalence in the United States – or even in Central Ohio.
Alexander said the rappelling event is Gracehaven’s largest fundraiser, but also an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue locally.
She said passersby often ask what the event is supporting. When she tells them it’s an effort to end human trafficking, she said they often ask, “Like in India?” Many are surprised to hear her respond, “No, here in Columbus.”
According to Gracehaven, more than 1,100 youth are victims of human trafficking in Ohio each year.
Duane added, “This isn’t just something you see on T.V. at the Mexican border.”
Alexander said she feels “incredibly blessed we get to have the event” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event takes place on private property with a limited group, she explained, which allowed the organizers to implement additional safety precautions.
When fundraisers near the ground, Alexander said the reason they’re rappelling will be read over a speaker system. She said some are survivors of sexual assault or human trafficking themselves, while others have daughters the same age as victims.
Although each participant has a different story, Ryan said they all feel a duty – often tied to their Christian faith – to act against injustices.
“I’m in awe because I think about these vulnerable children and that we all come together with one purpose: to try to change the trajectory of these women’s lives,” Alexander added.
Prior to rappelling, Duane said he and his wife toured Gracehaven’s facility that houses and provides residential treatment to 12 young women who are survivors of human trafficking.
He said it broke his heart to see girls as young as eight years old who might not have even understood they were victims of sex trafficking.
Along with supporting victims, Alexander said community education and prevention training comprise a large part of Gracehaven’s mission.
She said part of the funds raised by the event will be used to facilitate training at Central Ohio middle and high schools to help those who are in contact with young women, like teachers, recognize signs of abuse and intervene.
Beyond this, Alexander said the trainings allow Gracehaven to reach out directly and provide their services to those who may be victims or survivors.
She said the trainings often result in young women approaching Gracehaven employees and confiding in them, “I think I’m being trafficked.”
While she said she would love to expand the home’s capacity and add four more beds for women like them, Alexander said the ultimate goal is to prevent human trafficking as a whole.
“Wouldn’t it be so great if we didn’t have the house?” she said.
Ryan said even after the event, every person can play a role in achieving that goal.
His father said there are opportunities to volunteer with Gracehaven or donate to the organization. Even if it seems daunting, he encouraged others to fill any need they are able to.
“If we slow down and follow God’s prompting, you never know where it’ll lead,” Duane said. “You might be climbing down the side of a building.”
Plain City resident Duane Dickey and his son, Ryan, will rappel 330 feet down the side of the Chase Tower in Columbus Friday as part of Over the Edge. The pair, pictured above, has raised more than $5,000 to support the mission of Gracehaven, an organization that provides housing and residential treatment for minors who were victims of human trafficking. (Photo submitted)
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