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Rotary puts focus on 'Water for Life'
Rotary puts focus on 'Water for Life'
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
Chagrin Valley Rotary Club member Jeff Griff stood in front of a crowd of Rotary members and held up a pitcher of murky water with sediment on the bottom. "Want a drink?" he asked as he addressed members and guests Nov. 14 at the Rotary's "Water for Life" event.
Not surprisingly, no one took him up on his offer.
"We are blessed," he said of the local abundance and availability of good, clean drinking water.
The event, held at Lowe's Greenhouse in Bainbridge, was geared to raise awareness about those who do not have that blessing and to raise funds to fight the global crisis of unsafe drinking water.
Over 1 billion human beings lack access to water, and 6,000 people die every day from water-related diseases, most of them children, according to Chagrin Valley Rotary Club President Roger Kallock, of Bainbridge.
A majority of the evening's proceeds of $20,000 will benefit the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a
nonprofit organization that funds sustainable, safe drinking-water projects all over the world.
Guest of honor and honorary co-chairwoman of the event was Katie Spotz, of Mentor, who will attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South American, beginning Dec. 7, to raise money for the foundation. If successful, she will be the youngest person at age 22 to row solo across an ocean.
Rotary's contribution to her fund-raising effort will put her over her goal of raising $30,000 for the foundation, Mr. Kallock said. "It was a good team effort," he said. "We made sure Katie's goal has been met."
The funds will benefit a clean-water project in Haiti to help 1,000 students and 400 family members gain access to clean, safe drinking water.
The Rotary Club will keep in touch with Ms. Spotz and post her progress on its Web site, according to Mark Besand, co-chairman of the Water for Life event with Mr. Griff.
Diana Munz, Olympic champion swimmer and Chagrin Falls High School graduate, was an honorary co-chairwoman of the event, along with Ms. Spotz, whose parents, Dan and Mary Spotz, attended the benefit.
The gathering of 190 people had an opportunity to inspect the boat that Ms. Spotz will be rowing, as well as sample foods from area restaurants and view cooking demonstrations. Funds were raised in the silent auction headed by member Scott Henry and from raffles throughout the evening.
Joyce Piteo coordinated the food and restaurant offerings. "We had generous donations from all over," she said.
Mr. Besand said Ms. Spotz "will be with us every single day," referring to the club's Web site that will be updated every day. "She is making a difference by bringing water to those in need," he said.
He said Ms. Spotz talked to the Rotary Club in March about her goals in rowing the ocean. It was not until he happened to meet her at the airport afterward that the idea to back her efforts to raise $30,000 for the Blue Planet Run Foundation took hold.
The Rotary Club embraced the goal and started planning in June for last week's event. "Frank Lanza, owner of Highway Garage in Bainbridge, was our first sponsor, and it just grew from there," Mr. Besand said.
In speaking with Ms. Spotz at the event, he said, "I can't tell you how proud we are to support you. We will follow you every day."
Mr. Kallock said, "We thought the challenge of clean water worldwide was worth a local focus when we had two young women committed to helping people overcome the problems of unclean drinking water. There are 1 billion people who get up every day and don't have safe water."
Proceeds of 70 percent will go to the Blue Planet Run Foundation and the rest will go to benefit Chagrin Valley Rotary Club's local programs.
Addressing water projects is not new to the Rotary Club. Member Mike Johns, of Bainbridge, said Rotary clubs all over the world are working on bringing safe water to people who don't have such necessities.
He got involved in the water projects through Rotary International, for which he has served on its board of directors. Rotary clubs and districts are working on 28 different projects now.
He is involved with a project in Nigeria where there is a medical school with 400 students and no water. They have to truck it in once a week, he said.
Less than $100,000 would provide a supply of water to the campus, Mr. Johns said. "I believe we should make it happen." He has been there three times, representing Rotary International.
"We work to improve their quality of life," he said. "Without more equal distribution of the resources in this world, we'll never be at peace."
It is an opportunity to stand up and make a difference, he said.
"I do it because we're so blessed with the gift of life. I need to give back some of the blessings I have," Mr. Johns said.
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