Black History Visionaries

Freedom Challenge: Climbing to Battle Modern Day Slavery

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PLANO -- “Every lap we do today is for another woman to be free.”

When 6:00 wake up calls and Texas hills are involved, that’s the mantra from local climbers Julie Barnett, Gina Getter, and Autumn Ross.

For Ross, the craving to climb mountains came as her age was doing some climbing of its own.

"I started climbing when I was 55, which is crazy!” she said. “It's at a time when most people are moving to the couch and holding their grandbabies.”

It’s one thing to stay in shape, but what could make her want to get out and scale Mount Kilimanjaro, the Alps, or the Grand Tetons?

“It’s great fun to climb mountains and all that, but the real reason we do it is because of women and children who are sold and trafficked around the world,” Ross said.

Yeah, we’re talking climbing for a cause.

These three North Texas women, as well as more than 150 others from across the country, are hiking the Tetons in Wyoming next week for the Freedom Challenge, a group with the goal of ending modern day slavery.

“It's not about the mountain climb,” said Freedom Challenge Director Tina Yeager. "That’s symbolic of the climb these women and children have out of this dark, dark issue. It’s really about helping to free one woman and one child at a time.”

The Freedom Challenge says there are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than the population of Texas.

The average age of those is just 12 years old.

"To me, that’s just traumatic,” Julie Barnett said. "I want to take on the world and save them all.”

Barnett’s own daughter is around that high risk age, so when she was introduced to Freedom Challenge and the circumstances behind it, she knew she had to do something.

Instead of channeling Liam Neeson in Taken and attacking criminals with weapons and a ‘particular set of skills’, Freedom Challenge raises awareness and money for programs and shelters through these climbs.

"Our challenge, their freedom,” Barnett said. "I love that.”

And with more than $700,000 donated so far for this year’s climb, the group is headed in the right direction in this uphill battle.

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