You are probably wondering what motorcycles, safe water and the Pope have in common. Well, I'm writing this Director's article following the conclusion of Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States. During his visit, I was amazed at the outpouring and excitement from so many people of all faiths to simply catch a glimpse of the Pope and hear his message of compassion and human dignity.
One of the Pope's main messages in his historic speech to Congress and the United Nations was that he urged his listeners to remember the downtrodden in a world that has forsaken many people in the pursuit of wealth and power.
According to the World Health Organization, 750 million people around the world, approximately one in nine people on earth, lack access to safe water. As a result of inadequate drinking water and sanitation, approximately 2,300 people die each day. These truly are the downtrodden souls the Pope is referring to in his message to the world.
This made me think of AWWA and what we are doing as an organization to help less fortunate people. Which brings me to motorcycles and safe water and one of AWWA's most successful philanthropic initiatives.
For AWWA, there is one motorcycle group above all others that consists of hog-riding water professionals affectionately known as the Water Buffalos.
I am talking about the motorcycle club that annually travels from all parts of the United States and Canada to AWWA's Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE).
This year, the Water Buffalos rumbled into ACE15 in Anaheim, Calif., and celebrated a decade of riding as a group. Their annual journey to ACE is appropriately called Ride With a Purpose. And unlike some motorcycle clubs, the Buffalos' purpose is a noble one. For a decade - yes, 10 years of getting to ACE on two wheels _ they have personally funded their trips to ensure that all donations (approx. $900,000 total) go directly to support the mission of our friends at Water for People. Today, the Buffalos consist of about 70 riders who continue building awareness about the need to solve water issues, especially in less fortunate communities, and raising money for that purpose.
Maybe you have seen that at ACE; they are hard to miss when wearing their signature denim vests covered in sponsored patches. And while they continue helping Water for People's mission in developing countries, they are also evaluating how they can broaden their focus and help less fortunate communities domestically through AWWA's Community Engineering Corps.
There is one Buffalo that the Chesapeake Section is especially proud to have as part of our herd. Tom Kelly is Strategic Coordinator for the Utility Service Team at Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and has been Riding With Purpose on his 2002 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail to every ACE since 2007. Most of the 32,000 miles on Tom's bike's odometer have come from traveling to ACE each year held in various cities such as Anaheim, Toronto, San Diego, Dallas, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Atlanta. Tom's most recent journey from Maryland to ACE15 in Anaheim took him 7 days riding 10 hours per day.
The Chesapeake Section sponsored $1,000 this year towards Tom's trip, although all expenses, including his time off work, are donated personally by Tom.
There are ways you can help the Ride With Purpose.
First, you can become a Buffalo, even if you don't have a motorcycle. Second, the Buffalos are always looking for sponsors so that they can proudly display the sponsor's name on their cool denim vests. Third, you can support a rider by donating to his - or her ride - that is what the Chesapeake Section did by donating $1,000. From all of us at CSWWA, I want to express our deepest appreciation to Tom Kelly and the rest of the Water Buffalos for all you do for people who need safe and clean water and to congratulate you on 10 successful years of Ride With Purpose. .