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Africa clean water fundraiser comes to Duluth

Participants at an upcoming Duluth fund-raiser run will be going the extra mile. Or at least the extra kilometer. The 6K Run for Water will be held next month in Duluth with proceeds going to help build new water wells in impoverished east Africa...

Participants at an upcoming Duluth fund-raiser run will be going the extra mile. Or at least the extra kilometer.

The 6K Run for Water will be held next month in Duluth with proceeds going to help build new water wells in impoverished east African communities. The length was chosen to represent the average distance women and children walk to get clean water in some of the world's poorest countries.

"The 6K length is kind of unusual," said run director Matt Scott of Duluth. "But that's the average distance they walk in these communities -- and often with 45-gallon cans -- so we want to bring some awareness to that."

Scott is organizing the first annual Duluth fundraiser for Come Unity, a nonprofit founded by his sister, Kristin Naylor, in 2007. Naylor lives in the Philadelphia area and is organizing the fourth annual run there. Their parents live in Fort Wayne, Ind., and are organizing that community's third annual event.

With her brother in Duluth, a town known for its running community, it was an easy decision to bring the event here, Naylor said.

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"The first event is always the hardest," she said. "Matt has worked really hard at pulling the community together. He's put a lot of effort into this and it sounds like we're getting good sign-ups."

The event will be held Saturday, June 8, on the Lester Park trails. Registration is available in advance at comeunity-now.org or at the door. There will also be live music and entertainment at the park.

Scott said he hopes to get about 150 participants and raise about $5,000 -- roughly the cost of building a new well in Africa.

While he has previously helped with his sister's charity, this will be Scott's first big foray into the nonprofit. But it's not just Naylor's project -- it's become a family affair.

"I've been involved in little things like creating postcards and things like that ever since she started the nonprofit," said Scott, who is originally from Indiana, but moved to Duluth to attend college. "My whole family is pretty much involved. My parents started doing the race in Indiana, and now we're in Duluth."

Naylor got the idea to start Come Unity after visiting Africa in the summer of 2007. She recalled walking several miles with natives just to get water, which turned out to be filthy.

"We were walking and walking and walking on this hot, dusty path with these women," she said. "I don't know how old they were, but they looked to be about 60 or 70 years old, and they were walking barefoot. This is their everyday for them. ... Then, we finally got to this place, and we literally we had to withhold our facial expressions with disgust. We couldn't believe that they were drinking that dirty water. But that's all they had."

Shortly after the trip, Naylor, a professional ballerina at the time, organized a few fundraiser performances to help fund clean water projects. She later created the Come Unity organization and now works full-time with the charity.

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The nonprofit recently completed its sixth well, Naylor said, with more on the way. The wells are located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda Ghana and India.

In many cases, a clean water supply is available nearby for natives, Naylor said. It just takes some money to drill and build a functioning well.

"Clean water contributes to the health of the whole community," she said. "It's so simple, but it affects the community so much."

This isn't the first time Duluthians have helped raise money for clean water in Africa. An April 28 Budgeteer story, headlined "Duluthians promote clean water in Ethiopia," detailed the efforts of Duluth Rotary Club 25 and the Global Team for Local Initiatives to build wells in Ethio-pian tribal communities.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: First annual Duluth 6K Run for Water

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8 (registration begins one hour prior)

WHERE: Lester Park, 61st Ave. East and Superior Street

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WHY: To raise funds for clean water and well-building projects in east Africa

HOW: Register online at comeunitynow.org or at the event. The cost is $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Other donations will be accepted at the event.

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