Photo above: The Sommerall family of Beaufort and friends from Water’s Edge United Methodist Church walk down Paris Avenue in Port Royal during the Walk For Water. Photos by Bob Sofaly.
An estimated 330 walkers joined the second annual Beaufort Walk for Water on Saturday, Sept. 22 in Port Royal. Thus far more than $30,000 has been raised to provide sustainable, safe water around the world. All donations benefit Water Mission, a well-renowned nonprofit Christian engineering organization headquartered in Charleston that builds safe water solutions in developing countries and disaster areas.
“What struck me the most was a true community feel of this year’s event”, said Jeneane Ryan, chair of the Beaufort Walk for Water committee. “More than twice the number of sponsors of last year came onboard, and adding to that in-kind sponsors who gave of their time, services or products, everyone really came together for this common purpose and the community got right behind us.”
The event kicked off with live music by ‘Blue Mudd’ entertaining the walkers as they arrived at Live Oaks Park for registration. Capitol Coffee offered free coffee and people could support Murphy’s Pucker-Up with a refreshing beverage from their “LemonAid” cart. Water Mission was on hand to educate and demonstrate their water filtration systems, and Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority handed out cool water to thirsty walkers.
After the opening ceremonies with speeches by Kevin Herr of Water Mission, Robert Lasher of Beaufort Walk for Water, and Rev. Patrick Perryman of First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort, who also conducted a prayer, the participants picked up their empty buckets and began the 3-mile route. At The Sands, the Port Royal Fire Department helped walkers fill their buckets with dirty water and carry it back to the park.
The 3-mile walk through Port Royal simulated the much more treacherous walk that millions of women and children in developing countries walk daily to retrieve water for their family’s needs. In most cases, even after walking for miles and miles, the water they collect is contaminated. Every 20 seconds one child dies from being poisoned with bacteria-filled water, while ironically, by current estimations, a mere $35 can provide one person with safe water for life.
“The fact that almost 2,300 children die every day from basic water-borne diseases is just something that you can’t ignore”, Ryan said. “I was in Haiti just after the earthquake in 2010 and witnessed this first-hand, and it broke my heart. I just knew I had to get involved, knowing that it is possible to make a difference, and I found that Water Mission shared my ambition.”
Since 2001, Water Mission has used innovative technology and engineering expertise to provide access to safe water for more than 3.6 million people in 55 countries. Water Mission has over 250 staff members working around the world in permanent country programs located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Notably, Charity Navigator has awarded Water Mission its highest four-star rating 12 years in a row, a distinction shared by less than one percent of the charities rated by this organization.
With six different church denominations and numerous local businesses supporting Beaufort Walk for Water, now only in its second year, Ryan and the committee see how the common cause unites Beaufort in ways she could only dream of.
“I always felt that the goal was to increase awareness about the world water crisis, and the fact that we are able to raise funds for Water Mission to continue this fight means so much,” Ryan said. “The Walk is such an upbeat, positive event that makes people not only feel good, but one that makes people really think.”
The committee will soon start planning for Beaufort Walk for Water 2019, knowing the work to eliminate the global water crisis is far from done. Now there is a momentum to keep this movement going.
“The walk might be behind us for this year, but we can keep educating people and working all year behind the scenes, updating our social media and answering questions until it’s time to up the ante for the 2019 Walk,” Ryan said.
The committee welcomes anyone interested in being involved to get in touch with them.
For more information follow @BeaufortWalkForWater on Facebook and Instagram, or call 843-769- 7395. Sponsorship inquiries only may be directed to Robert Lasher at 843-906-8118. Donations can be made online at events.watermissions.org/Beaufort18.