Rick Danks of Napoleon is on a mission to eradicate the number one preventable cause of death in the world – the lack of clean water. Although his personal trek will only span 3.7 miles, the impact of the international event he’s coordinating on the local level – the Global 6K for Water – spans the globe and will help thousands of thirsty souls.
“Six kilometers is the average distance that people in developing countries walk for water. Ironically, that very water is often contaminated with life threatening diseases like cholera,” said Danks, a 63-year-old electrician with Coy Laboratory Products, Inc. of Grass Lake. “The Global 6K for Water gives participants the chance to walk or run an ordinary distance for an extraordinary cause.”
Statistics shed light on how desperately clean water is needed. About 20 percent of African children die before their fifth birthday due to diseases in water. In some remote villages, that number is as high as 50 percent, according to World Vision, the International Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization sponsoring the event.
“Having clean water changes the lives of children. They have better health, improved nutrition, and can go to school instead of spending the day fetching infected water,” Danks said. This year’s event, in honor of World Water Day, will aid children in India, Africa and Haiti.
Danks, a committed Christian, says his faith is a driving force behind his efforts to coordinate a local initiative. “I took a mission trip to Honduras a few years ago, and the condition of the people living there really got my heart. I remember looking at the murky brown water they drank and wondering what was in it,” he said.
“Jesus tells his followers to help the widows and orphans and in Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ This race is our opportunity to help the least of these,” said Danks, who attends Jackson Free Methodist Church.
He stressed, however, that the event is open to people of all faiths, or no faith. Participants will receive a “World Vision Global 6K for Water” t-shirt, race bib, and medal.
Jackson would seem to be a drop in the bucket of such a global event, but our little county is awash in generosity. Last year, Jackson ranked 22nd in funds raised, out of 230 global sites. This year’s local event will start and finish at the vacant Henry Ford Allegiance Health Diabetes Center parking lot at 817 W. High St. The route will run through the Cascades/Sparks Park and surrounding neighborhood.
World Vision’s water projects are designed to engage the community, religious leaders, and local government in the clean water initiative. After rigorous assessment, engineers choose the solution best fitted to the community, including wells, filtration systems, improved sanitation and hygiene solutions like building latrines and organizing communities to implement good habits such as handwashing.
“I like teaming up with World Vision. Those folks are in it for the cause. They are really passionate about helping the least of these,” said Danks.
The race bib that participants wear as they run, walk or volunteer will display the photo, name and village of the child who will benefit from their participation. Bibs, medals and more will be sent in the mail.
“One of the things I like about this event is that you know where the money is going because you wear a bib with a photo of the child you’re helping,” said Danks.