Nashville, Tenn. – Matt and Sarah Hasselbeck were the honorary chairs of the annual benefit dinner for the International Justice Mission (IJM) held Sept. 25 in Nashville. The event was the organization's largest benefit dinner in the region with more than 550 attendees from the Nashville community, helping to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars to support victims of slavery and human trafficking.
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, and every year more than two million children are exploited in the sex trafficking industry. IJM president and CEO Gary Haugen founded IJM in 1997 to bring rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. This year, Haugen received the TIP Report Hero Award, the U.S. State Department's highest honor to recognize outstanding contributions in the fight against trafficking.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck served as an honorary chairperson for IJM's event alongside his wife Sarah.
"I am so grateful to have the Titans and the Nashville community rally together to support IJM," Matt Hasselbeck said. "We are proud to team up with IJM because, in our opinion, they are the best human rights organization in the world. Nashville's continued support for IJM will truly change the lives of those facing violent oppression and equip local communities to protect the poor."
Many Titans players and front office executives were in attendance to support the Hasselbecks and the human rights organization. Among the players joining Hasselbeck were Jake Locker, Rusty Smith, Will Witherspoon, Marc Mariani, Leroy Harris, Patrick Bailey, Kevin Malast and Colin Mooney. Two front office executives also attended, General Manager Ruston Webster and Vice President of Community Relations Bob Hyde.
Hasselbeck and the Titans also donated a special drawing for attendees to win VIP tickets and field passes, as well as a personal tour of the Titans' practice facilities and opportunity to meet Hasselbeck and some of his teammates.
At the Nashville event, Haugen shared about IJM's work to rescue individuals from slavery and help them rebuild lives in freedom. He shared how lives have been transformed – lives like Raman's, who was born to enslaved parents in a rice mill in India, and started working when he was just 5 years old. As he grew older and started his own family, Raman feared that his own children would be subject to the same future. IJM helped local authorities rescue Raman and nearly 100 other slaves from the rice factory. IJM lawyers started working to build a case, and after six years the rice mill owner was convicted for his crimes under Indian anti-slavery laws. At the same time, IJM social workers helped Raman get training and learn skills that have allowed him to thrive. Today, Raman works hard so his daughters can go to school. He has emerged as a leader in his community, even advocating with local government officials to get running water and electricity in his village.
Those who attended the event comprised a diverse cross-section of the Nashville community including business and community leaders, Titans' leadership, coaches and players, music industry leaders, artists, legal professionals and government leaders. A committee of community leaders, including chairpersons Bill and Maria Lee and Tim and Carissa Pereira, dedicated their time and talents to planning the event months in advance to raise funds to support IJM in the fight against human trafficking. Nashville has a long history of supporting IJM with nine benefit dinners held locally in just the past 10 years.
For more information on supporting IJM, please contact the local IJM representative Michelle Conn at email@example.com. Michelle, who has lived in Nashville for more than 20 years with her husband, was one of the first five people hired for IJM early on in IJM's 15-year history. IJM is now a leading global human rights organization with more than 500 full-time staff. In the past five years alone, IJM has brought relief to more than 10,500 victims of violence and injustice, and secured the conviction of more than 400 violent criminals — with hundreds more on trial.
*About International Justice Mission * International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work in 15 communities in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor.