MagazineJune 2010Water Brigade

Water Brigade

Team Blue Provides Safe Water, One Mile at a Time

In 2007, 21 runners ran a relay across the globe. They covered 15,200 miles through 16 countries by running 24 hours a day for 95 days straight. And they delivered a simple message along the way: Water is Life. Pass it on.

One billion people—one in six humans—don’t have access to safe drinking water. It’s a message that shocks most people living in the developed world where clean water is just a tap away. After the global relay, Blue Planet Run formed Team Blue, a network of athletes who raise money and awareness for clean water projects. It’s open to all athletes, from beginners to elites. Simply pick a challenge, then use Blue Planet Run’s fundraising tools and grassroots media campaigns so that your run, bike ride, or swim can help alleviate the worldwide drinking water crisis.

“We can really thank Dean Karnazes,” says Lisa Nash, the CEO of the Blue Planet Run Foundation. “In 2008, he ran the Desert Marathons for us [traversing five deserts on five continents in one year]. After that, it just sort of snowballed with more athletes doing amazing things for safe drinking water.”

Team Blue’s Rudy Van Prooyen on his Trans-America ride.


After Karnazes ran the deserts, Katie Spotz swam the 325-mile Allegheny River, then rowed across the Atlantic Ocean raising $80,000 in the process. Early this year, ultra-runner Melissa Racouillat completed the Atacama Crossing in Chile, a six-day, 155-mile run across the driest desert on earth, in 95-degree temperatures, carrying all of her supplies on her back.

“Access to safe drinking water is something most Americans take for granted,” Racouillat says. “Drinking water is the most basic necessity, but it leads to so many different health issues.”

Every year, 2.2 million people—mostly children—die from a lack of safe drinking water. Fix the drinking water problem, and you fix a growing health crisis.

“The solutions are so simple,” says Rudy Van Prooyen, one of the 21 runners who ran the world relay. “Sometimes, a village needs a well, sometimes a school needs better sanitation facilities, and sometimes, all that’s necessary is putting a pipe from a water source to a village. Just doing that can save an entire village of women a six-mile walk every day. Eliminating that walk enables those women to go back to school, raise children, and pursue other goals and activities.”

After Van Prooyen’s involvement in the world relay, he decided to pursue social entrepreneurship full time. Last year, the 60-year-old biked across the country, raising $12,000 for the Blue Planet Run Foundation. This year, starting on June 21, Van Prooyan will bike 4,500 miles across Europe with a goal of raising $30,000.

“I’ve lived a fortunate life. Most people I meet have lived similar lives. But it’s not that way for everyone,” Van Prooyen says. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg. As populations continue to grow, access to safe drinking water is only going to become more of a problem. And yet, there’s so much we can do.”

Follow Van Prooyan on his European tour and donate to the cause here.

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