By Annika Tomlin
Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer
Azita Milanian has a mission to stop child trafficking. To spread awareness of the prevalent issue around the United States, Milanian is hosting a walk/run through her 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Children of One Planet at Farnsworth Park in Altadena at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12.
The event is also running virtually until July 9. To register, visit childrenofoneplanet.com. The event includes a Children of One Planet T-shirt and mask for each participant.
“This walk/run virtual event is something that I want to happen all over the United Stated that people can do it on their own,” said Milanian, the founder and president of Children of One Planet.
“Eventually the momentum will start and will show how when we can be together, we can help the children against children trafficking.”
Milanian said she hopes the movement to stop child trafficking picks up.
“Because of being an engineer (at NASA), I have a lot of practical solutions for the things that people say are impossible,” Milanian said. “I don’t believe anything is impossible. It’s just hard work, but anything can happen if people get together and try to stop it.”
How it started
Milanian founded Children of One Planet in 2000 following an event in 1998 that changed her life.
During one of her hikes near her Altadena home with her three black Labradors, Milanian’s dogs stopped randomly at a small pile of dirt on the trail. She thought it was an animal, but upon further inspection saw that it was an abandoned newborn baby.
She rushed the baby to the hospital and did all that she could to make sure that he survived. He was less than 3 hours old.
After a long stay in the hospital, where they dubbed the baby “Christian,” the infant later named Matthew Christian Whitaker, was adopted and Milanian never thought she would hear from him again. Twenty years later, the two met after they appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show.
“In 1998 when I found the baby that is when it was clear that this was my destiny (to help children),” Milanian said. “I quit my job in engineering and I started as a clothing designer because I thought that it would be a tool to raise money independently from a company or organization.”
Milanian created her ballroom dance and clothing company Tosca Evening and Dancewear to help raise funds to donate to children in need worldwide.
“When I started (Children of One Planet), I wanted to be able to do humanitarian stuff for children but, at the same time, to live I was working very hard for my (ballroom) company and doing Children of One Planet on the side,” Milanian said.
“Last year was not the best for a lot of people but I used it as time for planning things to be able to help during COVID to be able to expand my nonprofit and go full time on my nonprofit and part time on my clothing company.”
People she knew for 20 to 30 years were retiring or had more free time because of COVID-19, so several of them joined the Children of One Planet board.
“When COVID started, I started making masks to give to the children at children hospitals and foster homes and children orphanages,” Milanian said. “But then my clients (for my ballroom company) started buying masks and the money from the masks helped several countries with a food crisis.
Milanian hopes the money raised for this walk will be used to install banners and posters in parks around the United States to help educate families about child trafficking.
“Now that people are going outside more, we want to put the banners and posters right at the entrance to allow them to talk and in schools too,” Milanian said. “All of this money is for more education to be able to expand our YouTube channel and bring in a motivational speaker or bring in a victim of child trafficking and so forth.
“Most of the things that we do are educational, but we are trying to talk to the president to advise him that this is a very big problem in America.”
According to Milanian, “every 40 seconds a child is kidnapped, and people don’t know about it.”
Milanian hopes this walk will help fund proper education for families to learn more about children trafficking in America as well as counseling and nutritional services for children in foster care to help provide a ground base for them to have a better future.
“This is going to be something that I will be doing for the rest of my life,” Milanian said.
Walk/run for Children of One Planet
WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12
WHERE: Farnsworth Park, 569 Mount Curve Avenue, Altadena
COST: $55 to $500