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Austin chefs compete to raise money for human trafficking rehabilitation

The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) hosted their second annual Hope Appẻtit Gala at 7 p.m. at the W Hotel in Downtown Austin.
Credit: Brandi Lacey Photography
Hope Appetit Gala 2018 raised $1 million for The Refuge for DMST.

AUSTIN, Texas — Three Austin chefs participated in a competition to raise money for a local charity. 

The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) hosted their second annual Hope Appẻtit Gala on Friday at 7 p.m. at the W Hotel in Downtown Austin. 

The gala showcased an "Iron Chef" culinary showdown to inspire hope and healing for survivors of DMST.

Built and running mostly on community donations, The Refuge for DMST is the nation’s largest human trafficking residential facility. It’s located in Central Texas, outside Austin’s city limits.

The Refuge Ranch is a facility that provides treatment, trauma information and acts as a long-term restoration shelter for girls and young adults up to the age of 19 who were exploited through sex trafficking.

Starting at $2,500 for sponsorship, those attending will watch the competition, hear from guest speakers about human trafficking in Texas and participate in a live auction to raise money for the charity.

"“It's wonderful that we, as a nation, are now speaking about [a] subject that was so recently not spoken of. It's great that more children are being rescued. But now, the real work begins," Steven "Flyer" Phenix, PR Director for The Refuge for DMST, said.

The Refuge Ranch opened last year. It can house up to 48 survivors.

Previously, KVUE Defenders told you how Texas doesn’t have enough residential rehabilitation services for children involved with human trafficking.

“The Refuge for DMST believes that there is no rescue without restoration. We [are] so fortunate to live in a community that believes the same. With Austin’s huge support our tiny, brand new nonprofit has been able to punch way above our weight class in the fight against child sex trafficking. Thanks to Austin, we’ve built the nation’s largest long-term rehabilitative community so child survivors can hope and heal," Phenix said. "So, [Hope Appẻtit] is part celebration of what we’ve built, part banding together to build a future for these children.”

Last year, the charity raised $1 million at the gala. They were hoping to surpass that this year.

Hope Appẻtit was sold out, however, KVUE steamed the entire event live on the KVUE Facebook page.

KVUE’s Investigative Reporter Erica Proffer helped judge the competition and shared our coverage of the issue on the live Facebook feed.

For more information about the gala, click here.