BASTROP COUNTY, Texas -- A group of young Texan women and others want to raise awareness and thousands of dollars for a local nonprofit helping survivors of sex trafficking.
For months, a group of 11 young women from Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma have been raising awareness about The Refuge Ranch. Sunday, they got to see it for the first time.
“This makes it so real, it’s just like thinking about the girls that are going to come here that are just a little bit younger than me,” said Lizzie Sammons, a 20-year-old from Oklahoma.
Sammons and 10 other college-aged girls are members of the Pedal The Pacific team. Later this month, they will be cycling from Seattle to San Diego to raise awareness and $250,000 for the ranch.
The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is building the 50-acre therapeutic ranch in Bastrop County for female survivors ages 11 to 19.
“It just blows me away thinking about them like sitting here in this living space and building relationships with one another that’s going to help them recover from relationships that have traumatized them so much,” said 22-year-old Kelly Coles.
Forty-eight girls can live on the ranch any given time, for as long as they need. There are going to be cottages, a school, buildings for counseling and therapy.
"To be able to see that allows me to see more tangibly what we’re doing and the beauty of it," said 22-year-old Mattie Carranza, member.
The girls say they will remember the experience, as they prepare to embark on their 1,700-mile journey on a bicycle.
"I know that some days my legs are going to hurt like crazy, or some days, I’m going to be really tired or some days our teammates and each other are going to have encourage each other and build one another up," Carranza said. "I know when I go back to the reason why we’re doing this, it’s completely worth it."
Part of the money they are raising is going to what they call, 'the passion fund.'
"Any kind of things that [survivors are] interested in we want to be able to allow them to take that and use that for healing and use it for growing and possibly, who knows, a career later on," Sammons said.
They are opportunities that many members of Pedal The Pacific said they have had already.
"My sense of justice kicks in," Coles said. "As people that have been given lots of freedom and lots of privilege, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can."
Pedal The Pacific begins the ride on June 14. To donate to their mission visit: pedalthepacific.com/donate.