Coon Rapids team runs across Minnesota for Just+Hope Campaign

While many were indoors avoiding the heat, four Minnesotans were running around 21 miles each day to raise money for the Just+Hope Campaign through Venture Expeditions.

The Venture Expeditions Run Free Minnesota team ran around 214 miles from Watertown, S.D., to Prescott, Wis., in 12 days to raise over $4,000 for the Just+Hope campaign. Pictured from left to right are Aaron Smith, Brittney Moffatt, Brendan Connelly and Bret Johnson. Photo contributed by Bret Johnson

The Venture Expeditions Run Free Minnesota team ran around 214 miles from Watertown, S.D., to Prescott, Wis., in 12 days to raise over $4,000 for the Just+Hope campaign. Pictured from left to right are Aaron Smith, Brittney Moffatt, Brendan Connelly and Bret Johnson. Photo contributed by Bret Johnson

From June 24 to July 5, Bret Johnson of Coon Rapids, Brittney Moffatt of St. Cloud, Aaron Smith of Rosemount and Brendan Connelly of Minneapolis ran some 214 miles from Watertown, S.D., to Prescott, Wis.

They comprised the Run Free Minnesota team, raising over $4,000 for the Just+Hope campaign.

The Just+Hope Campaign fights human trafficking, poverty and the use of child soldiers in India, Thailand, China, Burma and Indonesia.

Johnson said the team started running at a fast pace on the first day with lots of energy.

“After that we realized it was going to be pretty painful and pretty hard, but kept on pushing through,” he said.

Staying with host families and visiting churches each night helped keep up the morale, as well as praying through each mile.

The four team members were at different levels of running experience. Johnson said the team really bonded during the times that they ran together.

The hardest experiences were the heat and the injuries.

Johnson said during the extreme heat they would stop every five miles and drink Gatorade and water, supplied by their support vehicle “Mother Falcon.”

Team members frequently had to wrap their feet, ankles and legs if they had sustained injuries, or sit out for several miles. Johnson suffered from plantar fasciitis and had to frequently wrap his feet.

Despite the heat, challenges and the injuries, Johnson said he would recommend this experience.

“It’s for a great cause… and we’ve all made friends for life for sure and met so many great people along the way,” he said.

He got connected to Venture Expeditions through a pastor from Grace Fellowship in Brooklyn Center.

Johnson had been a serious runner at Coon Rapids High School, participating in track, cross country and cross country skiing. The longest distance he had run before the expedition was a marathon.

He decided to do an expedition with Venture after reading Isaiah 58, a passage that addresses injustice, at a church camp.

“I asked God if there was anything that I could do and then felt like I should go on this run… I decided I’m going to do it for the people that have less than I do,” Johnson said.

Johnson was adopted from Romania and said the fact that he could have been on the receiving end of this ministry also prompted him to participate.

“I would be as poor as the people that I would be helping out if I wasn’t in America,” he said.

Before participating in a Venture Expedition, each participant had to raise a set fee that included the cost of logistics as well as a donation.

For Run Free Minnesota, the set fee was $2,200. Around $1,200 covered logistics, including food and gas, and $1,000 went directly to the Just+Hope campaign.

Venture Expeditions Tour Director Josh Iniguez said any additional money raised above the set fee goes toward the cause.

Team members raise money by sending out letters both before and after the trip.

As they travel around the state, country or world, Venture Expedition teams frequently stay at host churches that also contribute donations.

The Run Free Minnesota team is one of nine different running, hiking or cycling Venture Expedition teams around the world raising money this year.

According to Iniguez, each trip combines the elements of physical challenge and advocacy for different causes.

Venture Expeditions also offers Venture Local, a local component for individuals to raise money in their own neighborhood and participate in a hike, run or cycling event where they live. Venture Expedition helps provide jerseys, flyers and ideas on how to raise support.

“Not everyone can run across the state or go on a cross country tour, but we help provide the infrastructure,” Iniguez said.

Bethany Kemming is at bethany.kemming@ecm-inc.com

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