FIRST ON FOX: Tim Tebow — athlete, humanitarian and founder of the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF) — has announced a major new campaign to fight human trafficking and rescue child sex victims, given the horrors that are occurring right now to some of the most innocent individuals all around the world.
"This is something that's near and dear to my heart, even though this is about probably some of the worst stuff you could talk about," Tebow told Fox News Digital in an exclusive on-camera interview this week from South Africa. (SEE the video at the top of this article.)
Tebow and his foundation picked Sunday, July 30, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, as the date to announce their new initiative. He's also about to turn 36 — and each year he uses his birthday to help shine a light on the needs of others, as he did last year as well.
The day is recognized worldwide as a time to raise awareness about the disturbing developments and growth of human trafficking — estimated to be a $150 billion industry, with some 50 million people trapped in bondage, Tebow and his team noted.
Tebow's new "unKNOWN" campaign seeks to identify and rescue the scores of children suffering from sexual abuse and torture — with some of them even victims at the hands of family members.
"It's so important that we talk about these things — some things that are very hard to talk about it, but it's worth it and it's needed," said Tebow.
"We have to create more awareness and more people who are standing on the line against what we believe is one of the biggest evils in the world — and that is this fight against trafficking, child trafficking, and against CSAM, which is very similar. And that is Child Sexual Abuse Materials."
He added, "This is rampant against the world. Boys and girls are not having a childhood."
He said, "They're being abused. They're being tortured. There are terrible things that are being done to them."
"Every one of these lives is infinitely valuable to God — and they better be to us." — Tim Tebow to Fox News Digital
And "we know that at TTF, that we have been called to this fight. We know that our partners have been called to this fight."
Tebow said his foundation has been engaged in this fight for a decade already, the last three years very publicly. The group said it is "blessed to be a part of 20 safe homes around the world with 22 in progress. Through our partners and teams, we have been able to help rescue more than 1,000 victims."
However, said Tebow, "We're called to do it for a lot longer… This is just something that's so personal to us. Every one of these lives that we know we're called to help is infinitely valuable to God, we believe — and they better be to us."
He said it's critical for "all the boys and girls that we've fallen in love with, that we know their story, that we've hugged them, that we've cared for them and that we've been able to give them long-term restoration and counseling and therapy."
Said Tebow, "You fall in love with them. You fall in love with their smiles and their joy. And they go from such a place of hurt and anguish and pain to smiles and laughter and joy."
The children, once found and rescued and cared for, can then move to becoming involved in the normal everyday interests and cares of kids and young people everything "from basketball or plays or singing or whatever their passions are," said Tebow.
"Every boy and girl is worthy and deserving." — Tim Tebow
"And you get to see what hope and joy can do in a life," said Tebow.
"Every boy and girl is worthy and deserving of having that chance," he said. "And that's why we're so passionate about what we've been called to every day."
Tebow explained why his birthday campaign this year is called "unKNOWN." He said, "It's disappointing that we even have to title it that."
But the reason he's titled it "unKNOWN" is "because of CSAM — Child Sexual Abuse Material. And in just one of the law enforcement databases," added Tebow, "there are at least 50,000 boys and girls whose images of them being abused, tortured, raped — at least 50,000 of these boys and girls are unidentified and their location is unknown."
And "that's why we have called this ‘unKNOWN.’ Because we believe that every single one of those boys and girls are known to God — and it is worth us doing anything and everything possible so that they're known, so that they're located, so that they're cared for and rescued, so that they can have the love that they deserve."
"God loves every single one of these lives more than I will ever love them, more than any one of us will ever love them." — Tim Tebow
Of his very strong faith beliefs, Tebow said, "My faith encourages me on this because so much of it is hard. There's so much evil. And every day we're dealing with so many people in desperation that you want to help and get to as many people as we can."
He said, "There's so much pain and anguish. But the hope that we have is in Jesus — and God loves every single one of these lives more than I will ever love them, more than any one of us will ever love them. And we know that there is a heavenly Father that loves every single one of these lives."
And everyone is "so loved… And I believe they have infinite value and worth."
"Our heavenly Father sent his Son on a rescue mission for all of humanity," said Tebow.
"And I believe that is why Jesus came to us — to rescue us from what we could not rescue ourselves from. And one thing that my pastor says is, ‘Guys, do you know that once you’ve been rescued, you're now on the rescue team?'"
And "that was something that, the first time I heard that, it just pricked my heart," said Tebow.
"And it's true — it's true that as we live out our faith, it's a foundation for us — not just in a spiritual sense, but in a literal sense, for so many people" in "their darkest hour of need."
Tebow said the mission statement for his foundation is "one of the clearest things I ever wrote."
And that is, he said, "To bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need."
Tebow said this mission statement could not be more real in 2023 when it comes to victims of human trafficking, child sex trafficking and CSAM.
Tebow's goal is to raise $1 million this year so that the TTF and its partners — "a major effort by many amazing groups and people" — can help free others from pain and horror.
"People need faith, hope and love — and they need really to be loved in their darkest hour of need."
He said it is his fervent hope that many others will join him in this "unKNOWN" campaign, to help others in need — "to choose the best interest of another person and act on their behalf."
He said there are numerous ways people can be part of this.
"Number one is prayer," he said — meaning prayer for all those trapped in "horrific situations, in places of terror" — but also prayer for those engaged on the front lines in the fight for others' lives.
He also said more people need to talk about the problems — "we need more awareness of these issues that lead to change."
And then also, he said, people can give.
His goal is to raise $1 million this year so TTF and its partners — "this is a major effort of many amazing groups and people," he said — can help free others from places of pain and horror and get them the help and care they need to be restored.
There is "power," said Tebow, "when people come together" to do good works.
Anyone seeking more information can check out the website of the nonprofit Tim Tebow Foundation.