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New Friends New Life 14th Annual Luncheon Lisa Cooley, luncheon co-chair; Kelly Cruse, exec. dir., New Friends New Life; Joe Ehrmann, keynote speaker and co-founder of InSideOut Initiative; Tanya Foster, luncheon co-chair; Gail Turner, Dr. R. Gerald Turner, honorary chairs

New Friends New Life’s 14th Annual Luncheon on May 10 at the OMNI Dallas Hotel, raised over $1.06 million toward the work of the nonprofit, which restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teens, and children.  Honorary luncheon chairs were Gail and Dr. R. Gerald Turner and luncheon chairs were Lisa Cooley and Tanya Foster. Joe Ehrmann, co-founder of the NFL Foundation-funded InSideOut Initiative and a former NFL Pro Bowl athlete, named by Parade Magazine as “The Most Important Coach in America” for his work empowering youth – a critical component to ending sex trafficking and exploitation – was keynote speaker.  Singer Songwriter Gayle Arbuckle provided a moving song, which inspired 1,060 guests to be the change needed to help prevent a crime that enslaves young American girls at an average age of 13.  David Pughes, Interim Chief, Dallas Police Department, gave the invocation and Shelly Slater directed the audience’s attention to the screens for the debut of a thought-provoking video portraying the scenario and thoughts of a young girl trapped in the life of sex trafficking.

Chris Kleinert, chair of the New Friends New Life Men’s Advocacy Group Board, was joined by Jeremy Hodge, a student at Parish Episcopal School, to honor four ProtectHer award recipients – international, national, state, and local partners in the organization’s advocacy and prevention efforts to eradicate sex trafficking and exploitation: INTERNATIONAL HONOREE: Airline Ambassadors International, the first-time international recipient, holds training sessions in airports around the world teaching all airline personnel the key warning signs of trafficking. Flight attendant Shelia Fedrick, who gained national recognition this year for rescuing a young girl on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco, was honored along with Airline Ambassadors International founder Nancy Rivard.  NATIONAL HONOREE: U.S. Senator Rob Portman is the founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking and has authored five federal anti-trafficking laws since 2012.  STATE HONOREE: Governor Greg Abbott’s Child Sex Trafficking Team (CCST), which in 2016, changed the landscape of Texas’ fight against the horrific crime that is child sex trafficking.  LOCAL HONOREE: Parish Episcopal School,  piloted the New Friends New Life Men’s Advocacy Group’s manKINDness Project® High School Program, a 60-minute interactive learning experience teaching the next generation how to identify and execute healthy relationships with women and stop the cycle of sex trafficking. Jeremy Hodge was a member of the Parish team – the first to pilot the manKINDness Project Curriculum. Hodge told the audience that one of the most powerful things he learned was how society’s attitudes toward women and girls influence sex trafficking and exploitation. He wants to change that and feels that the program should be in every school in the nation.

Throughout the ballroom young men in a variety of colorful high school football jerseys represented five different teams from Berkner, Lake Highlands, Parish, Pierce, and Richardson High Schools.  Each school has participated in New Friend New Life’s manKINDness® Project curriculum for high school athletes in an effort to engage in dialogue about respect for young women and themselves.

“New Friends New Life has made great strides this past year through our Men’s Advocacy Group’s manKINDness Project® High School Program, a 60-minute interactive learning experience tailored to teen boys which aligns perfectly with Joe Ehrmann’s message to youth,” said Kelly Cruse, executive director, New Friends New Life. “Joe’s motivational message supports our philosophy that we must be proactive to create a long-term impact on this horrific and widespread industry.”

Mike Doocy, Fox 4 anchor and member of the Men’s Advocacy Group Board, took the stage to introduce keynote speaker Joe Ehrmann. He told the audience “while Joe Ehrmann gained notoriety due to his superior athletic acumen of the football field, he became a legend due to the investment he has made in the lives of men and young boys.”

Ehrmann captivated the crowd and encouraged the audience to work to understand “our own moral responsibility” relating it to New Friends New Life’s message, “Not our children, not our city.”  “We must create better citizens and contribute to our communities if we are going to eradicate this. Whenever you have empathy and can turn it into action that equals compassion which produces moral courage.”  He continued to say that apathy and indifference are our two greatest problems and encouraged the audience to step out of their comfort zones and have “our own personal transformation so that we can help transform others.”  Ehrmann now devotes his life to teaching young men a whole new meaning of masculinity. “Being a man means emphasizing relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself. It means accepting responsibility and leading courageously. It means that empathy, integrity, and living a life of service to others – all are more important than points on a scoreboard.”

Ehrmann’s NFL Foundation-funded InSideOut Initiative is a blueprint for systemic change, transforming the current “win-at-all-costs” sports culture into one that defines and promotes sports as a human growth experience. 

Serving approximately 1,000 women, teens, and children annually, New Friends New Life provides holistic services for victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation including access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health counseling, and spiritual support. By partnering with law enforcement, corporate sponsors, community organizations, and individual donors and volunteers, New Friends New Life helps to provide legal assistance, medical services, budget counseling, job-readiness training, and educational opportunities. The nonprofit’s High Risk and Trafficked Teen Girls Program offers abuse recovery groups for adolescents, teaching girls, ages 12 to 17, how to recognize and ultimately recover from abuse. The program is an intervention effort to help girls avoid a lifetime of exploitation as human trafficking victims.

Media Sponsors were The Dallas Morning News and WFAA.

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