Running for good, to get clean water to the world

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Think back when you were a teenager, whether that was recently or quite some time ago. Chances are it never would have crossed your mind to create and carry out a large, involved charity fundraising project -- and make it successful -- especially with no experience doing it.

This week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers gave it a shot -- and hit their mark. And now hundreds of people in poor countries of the world will have clean water because of them.

On a bright fall day the O'Hara High School cross country team headed off on a long run in the warm afternoon sun with seniors J.D. Meyers and Corbett McKinney out front. Competitive running is very central to the lives of these two outstanding, well-rounded teenagers. And it became their means for an ambitious charity fundraising event they devised and pulled off in September as their O'Hara High senior project.

"It was stressful to say the least," said FOX 4 Young Achiever Corbett McKinney. "There was a long process and it was really hard but it paid off."

"Yeah," said FOX 4 Young Achiever J.D. Meyers. "Six months. 250 plus hours of work and time that we put into this."

With virtually no experience organizing a charity fundraiser, Corbett and J.D. put together The Flood 5K, a run to benefit an international aid organization called water.org. O'Hara High alum Gary White and actor Matt Damon created water.org to get clean drinking water and sanitation to people in the developing countries of the world.

The boys really liked the cause -- and the O'Hara connection.

"We gave them a big check at the race itself," said J.D. "And we presented that. And so that is our success. That's what we wanted to do is give a big enough check to water.org to make a difference and to make our mark on the world."

"We can see how they fell in love with the project and the charity to where they started this amazing effort to aid those people," said Corbett.

"So, to make a mark on that charity by people who came 20 or 30 years later is huge," said J.D. "And it's very, very big for us."

After their many months of hard work on The Flood 5K -- lining up volunteers, vendors and all sorts of services and logistics and getting sponsors and 140 paying, registered runners, Corbett and J.D. were able to give water.org nearly $5,000 for its critical work.

"On water.org's website," said Corbett, "It says $25 will save a life. It'll provide someone with clean water for their entire life. So $5000, that's 200 people that have clean water for the rest of their lives." Quite a high school senior project.

"We do senior projects here," said O'Hara High School principal John O'Connor. "We've done them for quite a while. But this one seemed to be just such a huge undertaking and endeavor. And they reached out for help to the staff, to the community. They knew where to go, what to do. And they did a great job. I was lucky enough to be there the day of The Flood, of the event. And everyone -- it seemed to go off without a hitch. And they did a fantastic job. I mean, to me, I would, as a student 25 years ago, I would never have thought about taking on something this big. And they did it all and it didn't seem like it fazed them at all."

J.D. and Corbett both have a deeply rooted core value that they have an obligation -- a responsibility -- to help others and improve our world. That has led them into dedicated service as peer mentors in O'Hara High's Options Program where they tutor special needs students and help guide them through school and life.

"It's an awesome experience, as a peer, to help your fellow classmates learn," said Corbett, "And to know you are making a difference for someone, which is really good." Peer mentoring in the Options Program is one of numerous volunteer activities and service projects for J.D. and Corbett even as they stay focused as two of O'Hara's top scholars and busy, involved student leaders.

"They are go-getters," said principal John O'Connor. "Self-motivated. Love working with others. Service oriented. I just -- they are the whole package. These two are just everything you could ask for in students. You talk about excellence. You talk about two guys that strive to be the best they can be for their families, for their community, for their school, for -- just for everything they jump into. They want to give their best, give their 100% effort."

J.D. and Corbett say their core value of helping others and improving our world has been instilled by their families and their faith. And they say it's also the result of the education they are getting at O'Hara High School that emphasizes service and community along with learning and faith as it prepares young people for leadership in the world and the church.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

Phil Witt, Fox 4 News

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