End Slavery Tennessee Annual Luncheon: The Power of Love

End Slavery Tennessee proves that love changes everything

AUTHORS Holly Hoffman | PHOTOGRAPHERS Eric England

At the End Slavery Tennessee annual luncheon, the Music City Center was packed with more than 850 supporters of the organization that confronts slavery in our state and promotes healing for human trafficking survivors. Its “What is 13?” campaign drives home the message that 13 is the average age of entry into human trafficking — a tragedy that happens to 94 Tennessee teens each month. Co-chairs Susan Reinfeldt and Mary Trapnell themed the event “Love Changes Everything,” referring to the restorative power of love in the lives of survivors.

The program opened with honorary co-chairs Crissy Haslam and Cary Slattery announcing that Tennessee is now one of the toughest in the nation with its laws against human trafficking. Founder and Executive Director Derri Smith spoke of ESTN’s latest accomplishments: It partnered with the district attorney’s office to start a specialized human trafficking court — one of only five in the country. ESTN is on track to receive and care for 150 survivors this year, almost twice that of 2015. They will soon move into a portion of the old Nashville Memorial Hospital to accommodate the increase in survivors and additional staff. State senator Bill Ketron received the 2016 Human Trafficking Impact Award for sponsoring and co-sponsoring bills that protect children, help victims and stop traffickers. Presenting the award, Derri said, “[He] has used his influence not just for good but for greatness, helping to make Tennessee one of the best states in the nation for human trafficking laws.”

The keynote address was a powerful and moving performance depicting the stark contrast between a typical 13-year-old’s life and that of one being trafficked, using video and a young actress reading actual journal entries of a survivor. The Heimermann Children’s Choir brought the luncheon to a close with a beautiful rendition of “What the World Needs Now is Love.” ESTN Board Chair Bill Decker summed the day up perfectly, saying, “We know that love does indeed change everything. At End Slavery Tennessee, we witness the healing power of unconditional love in the lives of human trafficking survivors.”