Innocents at Risk Sheds Light on Darkness

Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Tania Taylor, Kathleen Galvan (host committee), Natalie Latta, Monica Jaenicke
Tania Taylor, Kathleen Galvan (host committee), Natalie Latta, Monica Jaenicke

Mark Axmacher II, Cora Lee, Jennifer Axmacher, Ashraf Ghorbal (Photo by: The Georgetown Dsh) Mark Axmacher II, Cora Lee, Jennifer Axmacher, Ashraf Ghorbal
The annual Innocents at Risk Gala lit up the Organization of American States Wednesday, shining a bright light on a dark problem: human trafficking. Event Chairs Mark and Jennifer Axmacher II welcomed 200 guests to the sparkling black-tie event as guests sipped mojitos and glorious samba music played.

The Honorable Debbie Dingell, congresswoman from Michigan, with Richard Marks of the Innocents at Risk Advisory Board (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The Honorable Debbie Dingell, congresswoman from Michigan, with Richard Marks of the Innocents at Risk Advisory Board
Organization founder Deborah “Debbie” Sigmund first heard the phrase “human trafficking” while on holiday in Europe. Appalled by reports of traffickers who lured women and children away from their families with promises of a better future before beating, mentally abusing, and sexually exploiting them, Sigmund, a mother of five, decided she had to do something, forming Innocents at Risk in 2005. Later, she launched the Flight Attendants Initiative, training and coordinating thousands of airline personnel to identify victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund with Event Chairs Jennifer and Mark Axmacher II (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund with Event Chairs Jennifer and Mark Axmacher II
“Debbie has done what no mere mortal could do,” said Nora Maccoby, a filmmaker who is developing a movie about Sigmund’s work. “If you had a few more people activating like Debbie, it would be a different world.” Sharon Stone or Charlize Theron have been identified as potential stars to play Sigmund in the film.  

Sigmund has tirelessly focused attention on the issue, working with law enforcement and speaking to audiences worldwide about this global scourge. Her message has resonated. “As relatively new parents, we’ve learned that it’s absolutely critical that we take care of our children around the world, wherever they are,” said Event Chair Mark Axmacher, managing partner of Capella Wealth Management.

Erin Haney, Antonio Alves, Mrs. Sandy Brock, former Sen. Bill Brock (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Erin Haney, Antonio Alves, Mrs. Sandy Brock, former Sen. Bill Brock
John Arundel of Washington Life with the Guttierez sisters, left to right: Karina, Edi and Erica (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) John Arundel of Washington Life with the Guttierez sisters, left to right: Karina, Edi and Erica
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and former Sen. Bill Brock (who served as U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Labor) and Mrs. Sandy Brock also expressed their support among the high-profile guests.

Ambassador of the Dominican Republic José Tomás Pérez and Mrs. Caridad de Pérez served as the Honorary Chairs of the event, leading a Diplomatic Committee that included 17 of the most high-profile embassies in Washington. Operation Underground Railroad was the Special Guest of Honor. NBC’s Barbara Harrison was the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Operation Underground Railroad includes former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives to lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts, working with law enforcement throughout the world. Once victims are rescued, the priority is a comprehensive process involving justice for perpetrators and recovery and rehabilitation for the survivors. 

 

Dordon Dale, Connie Carter, and filmmaker Nora Maccoby (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Dordon Dale, Connie Carter, and filmmaker Nora Maccoby
Writer Mary Bird and photographer Neshan Naltchayan (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Writer Mary Bird and photographer Neshan Naltchayan