After running or walking three miles, especially in hot weather, probably the first thing the average person wants is a drink of water.

But put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to travel that far on foot at least once a day just to obtain a small supply of water. 

Sadly, that is a fact of life for 1 billion people around the world, and it lies at the heart of a 5K run/walk taking place Saturday morning on the Ben Butterworth Parkway in Moline.  

The Wells4Wellness organization and the event came about after a 2007 mission of mercy when a group of Quad-City churches asked Pat Herath to organize some area medical professionals to help at an orphanage in Cambodia.

There they found a need for safe, clean water that resulted in a total of five wells being dug and installed. An organization called Operation Blessing International that makes water supplies one of its priorities sent a film crew to document the achievement.

When Herath showed a copy of the film to a longtime friend, she was asked, "Why haven't they helped Niger?"

Niger is a west African nation of 16 million people that is one of the hottest countries in the world. Much of Niger has a desert climate, and the Saharan heat evaporates some of the scant rainfall before it hits the ground. The need for sanitary water is great.

Herath, of Moline, and her husband, Dr. Bob Herath, a veterinarian, flew overseas to check the situation. They visited a "very remote area where people hadn't seen a car in a year," she said, and a cause was established.

"I'm very passionate about it," said Herath, who started the Wells4Wellness organization in April 2012 and is now its CEO. The 63-year-old was working as a nurse, but "I quit to do this full-time."

Supported by a governing board and many volunteers, $10,000 was raised last year, enough to put in two wells, a water tower and two solar panels in that area of Niger. The hope, of course, is to do much more, which includes raising funds and awareness through Saturday's race, the second such event.

"We're taking a bit of a spin on it this year, so we're asking, not telling, people to carry water during the race," she said.

The 555/111 Challenge refers to children in Niger as young as 5 years old having to walk 5 miles to carry 5 liters of water for their families. Quad-City participants are asked to run or walk 1 mile while carrying a gallon of water to save one village. The plan, Herath said, "is to have everyone pour their gallon into a 100-gallon container (supplied by the city of Moline), symbolizing what we go through every day to do dishes, brush our teeth, shower, do laundry."

The event includes four races, one of them beginning at 10 a.m. for children, with water-related prizes such as Y pool passes and tickets to hockey games and Disney on Ice shows.

Dogs are welcome, which is fitting because Herath's husband is a veterinarian of 40 years and operates the Andalusia Road Veterinary Center in Milan. He asked his clients to walk, so there will be dogs with special water containers. Paws For Water race shirts are available in various sizes for $7 to $9, and dogs walk free with a registered owner.

The cost to register is $30, which, Herath says, is enough to provide water for a family of four people for a year.

(1) comment

snowman05

Sam kinison comes to mind.

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