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Cathy O'Keeffe, right, reacts Wednesday as Curt Zeck, chief information officer of Royal Neighbors of America, presents a $7,500 check to Braking Traffik. O'Keeffe is executive director of the program dedicated to ending sex trafficking in the Quad-City area.

John Schultz, QUAD-CITY TIMES

Cathy O'Keeffe clapped her hands in delight and said, "Oh, thank you! Thank you!" when she spotted the oversized $7,500 check.

The check represented an investment in efforts to eradicate sex trafficking in the Quad-Cities.

Royal Neighbors of America, Rock Island, surprised O'Keeffe on Wednesday during a board meeting of the Braking Traffik organization at the Davenport Police Department. O'Keeffe, of Rock Island, is executive director of the group.

Curt Zeck, chief information officer at Royal Neighbors, said the check to O'Keeffe comes from the company's Nation of Neighbors program.

Each year, Royal Neighbors members and sales agents across the country are asked to nominate deserving individuals. A panel reviews each nomination and determines the recipients and the monetary amounts awarded.

A total of $1.5 million has been distributed since the program was launched in 2007.

O'Keeffe, a former teacher, has given a presentation called Traffik Jam to more than 1,000 students in six local high schools and middle schools. Feedback from students was that they understood that sex trafficking was a problem, but they didn't think it happened in the Quad-Cities.

That, O'Keeffe said, was because a video used in the Traffik Jam program was made in another part of the United States. Now, O'Keeffe will use contributions, including the one from Royal Neighbors, to improve the Traffik Jam presentation. The new video will use three Iowa survivors of sex trafficking, she said.

The average age for sex trafficking is 13 years old and all teens are at risk.

"Education is power," she said, noting that she disseminated the prevention information to Davenport West High School, Pleasant Valley High School, Rock Island Alleman High School and the Catholic junior high schools in Illinois, including Seton, Moline; Jordan, Rock Island, and Our Lady of Grace Academy, East Moline.

She envisions that the information will now be given out more widely in the Quad-Cities, and eventually, to states around the nation.

Former state Sen. Maggie Tinsman, Bettendorf, chairs the Braking Traffik board and noted the Royal Neighbors donation is one of the largest given in the organization.

"It's a real feather in our cap," she said.

Support for Braking Traffik also came recently from Junior League of the Quad-Cities, which contributed $10,000. That money came from the I AM Strong 5k Mudventure, held in August.

Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez confirmed that sex trafficking does exist in the Quad-Cites, and police have made arrests for the crime. Much of the information is exchanged on the Internet, Donchez said, and police monitor online sites such as Craig's List.

Braking Traffik board members welcomed the $7,500 check from Royal Neighbors. Jane Hoffman, the group's secretary, said it is an all-volunteer organization, and O'Keeffe is a "staff of one."

"There is a whole lot of dedication behind this effort," Hoffman told about 10 members of the Royal Neighbors organization who attended Wednesday's donation event.

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