Skiing for freedomSix hours on cross country skis will leave Abra Hovgaard mentally and physically exhausted.
By: Jen Cullen The Republican Eagle, Worthington Daily Globe
Six hours on cross country skis will leave Abra Hovgaard mentally and physically exhausted.
The Red Wing woman sees it as the least she can do.
"If someone can be in slavery their whole life, I can be uncomfortable for six hours," Hovgaard said Monday.
On Saturday the 30-year-old will participate in the annual American Birkebeiner, a 54 kilometer race from Cable to Hayward, Wis.
Though she's been on skis since she was a child, Hovgaard is not participating merely because she loves the sport.
Hovgaard is attempting to raise awareness for Free the Slaves, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that frees slaves worldwide and helps them rebuild their lives.
Hovgaard has already raised almost $2,000 for the non-profit by asking for a dollar per kilometer she'll race.
On Saturday she'll take a more out-there approach to get people's attention by wearing a homemade "Skiing for Freedom" sign and handing out information cards.
"That's my hope — that I stick out," said Hovgaard, who will ski at least part of the race with her husband, Jon. "More people need to understand that this exists."
Hovgaard has spent five years spreading the word about slavery, an issue she took interest in after reading a book by Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves.
A Red Wing resident for about three years, Hovgaard said she's discovered a community that is interested in helping eradicate slavery even though residents know little about it.
"People think it only occurs 'over there,'" Hovgaard said. "People are totally shocked about what's really going on."
Hovgaard said about 15,000 people are brought to the United States every year to serve as slaves, including farm and domestic workers and mail-order brides.
If her Birkebeiner experience — this is the third time she's participated — empowers only one person to ask questions or get involved, Hovgaard will be happy.
"Most people are brought to freedom because of the watchful eye of a neighbor, friend or teacher," she said.
Almost 10,000 skiers from 21 countries and 48 U.S. states are expected to participate in the 36th American Birkebeiner