MIDDLETON, Wis. - There are more than 40 million slaves across the world, which is more than ever in human history, according to the International Justice Mission. That statistic pushed an area family into taking action.
Thanks to the fourth annual Freedom Swim at Middleton High School, about $100,000 will be going toward the International Justice Mission, an organization that helps free slaves worldwide.
“It’s just refreshing,” Ellen Blust said about her family’s chosen sport, swimming.
It's a freeing feeling.
"It's just a fun sport, to just be moving through the water,” Blust’s 10-year-old daughter, Sarah Blust, said. “It's like flying, but in water."
Just by doing laps, about 170 swimmers were able to help spread that freedom across the world Saturday.
"It feels like what we should be doing,” Ellen Blust said. “It feels like more people should be aware of the problems going on."
Ellen Blust runs the swimathon.
"I guess I'm chairman, or chair mom, of Freedom Swim,” she said with a laugh.
Her kids swim it, too.
“It’s really cool,” 12-year-old Caroline Blust said.
“It’s fun to see all the kids full of energy, excited about ending slavery and having fun together,” 15-year-old Madeleine Blust said.
More than that, they came up with the idea. When Sarah, Caroline and Madeleine learned the world still has more than 40 million slaves, they had to take action.
"We were really surprised to learn about that,” Madeleine said.
"We're not really a family that's going out there and doing activist type things much, but we were thinking, 'What can we do?,'” said their father, David Blust.
The family of swimmers thought, why not dive in?
"Sometimes, it can feel like just because we're young, nothing is actually ever going to happen, but it can happen,” Caroline said.
Four years ago, their idea felt like just a drop in the bucket.
"When we first started, I didn't think it would go anywhere,” Sarah said.
Now it's filling a swimming pool.
"It's been really amazing to see it get bigger and bigger," Caroline said.
With each lap, swimmers raised more money for the International Justice Mission.
"They usually go beyond what they think they can do,” Ellen Blust said. "Everyone agrees slavery is awful. We don't spend a lot of time talking about it. It's neat to see kids saying, 'Hey this is a problem, and I'm going to do something to stop it.'"
In its four years, the event has about tripled in size.
"It's been amazing for me to see it,” David Blust said.
This year, the goal was to raise a record $100,000 dollars, including $35,000 from an anonymous donor.
"It's amazing. It's a really amazing feeling,” Caroline said.
"And it's not just us, it's all the kids working together and the generous donors,” Madeleine added.
Knowing the splash they've made in a small city is creating waves worldwide keeps them going.
"It's exciting to see how much we can make a difference and change lives of people across the world,” Caroline said.
Donors can still contribute for another week by visiting this website.