The sun was shining but the wind was blowing about 15 mph Saturday morning as Carrie and Scott Chambers each lugged 40 pounds of water on their backs nearly four miles along the Missouri River in Parkville.
The wife and husband from Kansas City weren’t alone. Some 500 others from the metro area were out in 41-degree temperature, walking to provide clean water for children in Africa as part of the World Vision U.S. Global 6K for Water.
Not everyone carried water.
But the idea behind the walk/run was to give the average person a taste of what it’s like for the many people in the developing world who on average have to walk 6 kilometers — nearly four miles — to get water.
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“This really opens your eyes to what people do every day in other parts of the world,” said Carrie Chambers as she struggled with the large metal can full of water strapped to her back.
“I can’t believe there are people in the world who have to do this three and sometimes four times a day,” said Chambers of Kansas City. “It just blows my mind.”
Each participant paid $50 to enter the 9 a.m. race, knowing their registration fee would go to provide water to a thirsty child. As music blaring from large speakers filled Parkville’s English Landing park, runners and walkers gathered, each wearing on their racer’s bib a photo of the child their registration money would help.
Brothers Briley and Micah Bessmer, 2 and 4 respectively, walked with their parents Mark and Pam Bessmer, members of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, on behalf of several children living in Marafa, Kenya. The Bessmers had explained to their sons the day before that there are children like them in other parts of the world who are thirsty every day because they don’t have access to clean drinking water.
“About 1,000 children die every day from lack of clean water,” said Cory Scheer, one of the organizers of the World Vision event.
Similar events took place Saturday in 200 other places including Canada, Australia, Germany and Kenya. The Parkville walk, sponsored by SanDisk and Planet Fitness, was the largest of them, Scheer said.
Scheer got involved with World Vision a year and a half ago, just months after a bicycle accident that left him covered with cuts on his back and shoulders requiring 300 stitches, a concussion and three hairline fractures to his spine.
When he left the hospital he pledged to run 12 marathons in 12 months for charities. One of those charities was World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization and the world’s largest nongovernmental provider of clean water to people living in developing nations.
Last year he encouraged about 300 runners to enter the Kansas City half and full marathons as part of Team World Vision. The team raised more than $200,000 for the charity.
Saturday’s event in Parkville was the first of its kind in the Kansas City area and raised more than $30,000 for World Vision.
It’s why Javier and Krisha Tormes of Liberty signed up to walk the distance, something neither of them had ever done before.
“It’s just a bit of a sacrifice, but the cause is so good,” Krisha said. “We take for granted how we can just go to the refrigerator and pull out a bottle of water.”
For Jennifer Johnston, an avid runner, the event “gives a reason and purpose for my running,” she said. “I’m not only running for myself but also for these children. To give them water. For life.”