Jennissen runs across Minnesota with a goal of raising $60,000 to stop sex trafficking

“Even if this only affected one person and changed their life for the better — it would be worth it. That has been one thing motivating me as I go, because I will be honest, it is not easy."

Zack Jennissen enjoys a homemade supper with the Widboom family. From left to right: Myranda Widboom, Zack Jennissen, Matt Widboom, Charley Widboom and Teresa Widboom.
Dominic Burns/The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Zack Jennissen is running across the state of Minnesota with a cause in his heart and mind — stopping sex trafficking.

Jennissen is from Foley, and he grew up near the ever-busy Minnesota State Highway 23. As a child, his mother was cautious of letting him run with his father near the highway. Now, as a 19-year-old, he is trekking 600 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Grand Portage, Minnesota, with the goal of raising $60,000 in collaboration with the nonprofit organization 30ForFreedom, which has a mission of finding a tangible way of ending sex trafficking.

Jennissen said he was in eighth grade when he went with his family to his first 30ForFreedom running event. In his youth he said he looked for any outlet to run and run and run. His father went out running, but until he was in fifth grade his mother kept him back from running too far. Now that he has matured, his run is not about the miles, but about the impact it can make for the cause.

“As I matured it became more and more present in my mind that what I was doing was helping people that I care about, but also people that others care about,” said Jennissen. “Someone’s daughter, someone’s son. … I don’t care at the end of this if anyone knows my name. That is not the important part at all. The only reason I want people to know is so they can find me and find what I am doing and be able to support that.”

Through his family's experience in foster care, Jennissen has seen people close to him affected by sex trafficking. His main hope in completing this trek is that the money raised can change the life of one person stuck in the sex trafficking world. That would make his journey a success.


Jennissen said his mother’s lesson of being wary of the highway is on his mind when running next to busy highways.

“I am aware of it,” said Jennissen of the traffic. “I am always thinking about bailing — I have never had to but it is on my mind — when a vehicle is starting to get too close.”

Jennissen said that his journey will finish up around Sunday, May 21. He will rest for a few days and then travel to Bloomington on Saturday, May 27, where 30ForFreedom will be hosting a race day of its own. The signup is currently ongoing .

Jennissen's progress can be watched on his VentureMiles account .

Jennissen spent the night in Worthington with the Widboom family. There he enjoyed a meal of pasta with homegrown beef made by Teresa Widboom.

Jennissen carries everything on him when he runs. His pack features a light tent, spare clothing and water flasks. He said some nights he plans to sleep in the tent outside, but he has also been put in contact with host families such as the Widbooms. He has been contacting local newspapers to share his journey. He also has an Instagram page where you can find links to support his journey.

“Even if this only affected one person and changed their life for the better — it would be worth it,” Jennissen said to The Globe. “That has been one thing motivating me as I go, because I will be honest, it is not easy. There are a lot of times where it does not feel pleasant.

"But the idea that somebody does not have to go through those things, and getting to live a full life is all you need (to know) as to why I am doing this and why I am going to keep going,” said Jennissen.


Zack Jennissen can be reached at .

Dominic Burns is a reporter at the Globe who covers general news and sports.
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