Walking for Water

Courtleigh Park Youth Steps Up to Help School Reach Goal

by Lauren Salinero

Oliver Getley (fourth from left) and his Windy Ridge School classmates organize and participate in a community walk at Courtleigh Park to raise funds for Charity: Water.

While most youngsters are playing video games, hunting Pokemón or watching TV, 14-year-old Oliver Getley and his friends are taking action to help other people around the world. Oliver’s school, Windy Ridge School, started a campaign to raise money for Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to build wells in countries that need access to clean water.

When the campaign became stagnant around spring break, Oliver knew something needed to be done if they were going to reach their $10,000 goal. Then he came up with the idea of organizing a walk in Courtleigh Park, his neighborhood.

“I wanted to bring people together in the community and for the cause,” Oliver said. “People in the U.S., we take clean water for granted since we have it pretty much every single day.”

All WRS eighth-graders, Oliver and several classmates brainstormed and planned the walk. The community allowed a banner to be hung at the entrance of the neighborhood. The teens also walked door to door, handed out fliers, posted on social media, and Oliver spoke at a community meeting to get the word out.

This came as a surprise to Oliver’s mom, Debbie Wilson, who did not know her son’s plans until he was about to speak in front of 60 people.

“I didn’t even know he was doing it until a soccer game,” Debbie said. “He said, ‘I need to go.’”

Before speaking to the crowd, Oliver asked his mom, “What do I say?”

She told him, “‘Just speak from the heart.‘ And he did. He stood in front of 60 people and spoke from the heart about what he wanted to do.”

The day of the walk was a bustle of activity as Oliver and his classmates set up and prepared. They had mapped out a route of about 3 miles, starting and ending at the neighborhood park. The kids spread out and were stationed at various points along the route so they could cheer on walkers as they passed.

“The reason why we did it for 3 miles was to give people an idea of how many miles people have to walk to get clean water,” Oliver said.

They also had an empty dairy can and a full one that participants could pick up, so they could feel how much weight people, even children, have to carry for that distance to get clean water.

“I was nervous at 8:15 [a.m.], when only 10 or 15 people were there,” Debbie said.

Just as Oliver and his classmates were starting to think only a few people would join them, dozens of neighbors began pouring into the park. About 70-75 people from Courtleigh Park, the school and surrounding neighborhoods participated.

“It was really cool to see all the people come out to it, because I didn’t think we would have that many at first,” Oliver said. “They started coming in right before we were about to walk. It was really cool to see that people actually cared about it and took it seriously.”

“He really re-energized something back into our community,” Debbie said. “It was perfect. Everyone had fun. It was just terrific.”

The walk raised about $4,000 for the campaign.

“If we didn’t have the walk, we probably wouldn’t have hit our goal of $10,000,” Oliver said.

Oliver is thinking about making the walk an annual event, with either continuing to donate to Charity: Water or choosing a different charity every year.

“It feels really good to do all the charity stuff, because you know you’re helping other people,” he said.

“You’re never too old or too young to make a difference,” Debbie said.

When she asked if he was proud of himself, Oliver told her, “I hadn’t really thought about it. I just stepped up when something needed to be done.”

To donate to Charity: Water, visit www.charitywater.org. ♥

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