Saturday morning's traffic around downtown North Augusta and Augusta included plenty of pedestrians, with more than 1,000 people (and several dogs) taking part in a fundraising event.
The CSRA Walk for Water had SRP Park as its starting and finishing point and had the James U. Jackson Memorial Bridge as part of the route leading to and from the turnaround point, which was St. Paul's Church, in Augusta.
The beneficiary was Water Mission, a North Charleston-based charity that provides equipment to give poor communities around the world easier access to potable water. The organization is in line to receive at least $40,232 from the event – the amount received from registrations. Cash donations boosted that to $71,982, and the event's major boosters, helping in some cases with in-kind donations, included such names as the Augusta GreenJackets, WAFJ (88.3 FM radio), American Concrete, Call of Dooty, University Health Care System, Chick-fil-A and BeStill Displays.
North Augusta resident Chris Withers, one of the organizers, described himself after the event as "just blown away at how it turned out" and estimated participation at well higher than 1,100.
"This has kind of been a neat process of watching how God's worked," he said, recalling how the various contact people and resources came together over the course of a year to help make the event a success. "It's been awesome."
Withers was already familiar with the organization, having benefited from its services while abroad. "I got involved being down in Haiti, believe it or not. I was staying in a compound and we used their water system. We actually drank and showered and stuff with their water-filtration system, and ... I found that out years later," he said.
Saturday's crowd got a chance to witness some of Water Mission's equipment in action. Each person was invited to walk the first half of the event with an empty bucket. At the halfway point, each bucket was filled with water from the Savannah River, and each walker had the chance to carry a filled bucket back to North Augusta for treatment at SRP Park. The purified water was ultimately used to water the outfield's grass.
A similar fundraiser took place in Charleston this year, with more walkers on board. The March 30 event took place in North Charleston, in Riverfront Park and around (and through) the organization's headquarters, with more than $300,000 being raised.
The crowd also included Summerville resident Scotty Parker, 15, one of Water Mission's highest-profile supporters. His activities on its behalf included a trans-America fundraiser in the summer of 2017 as one of several bicyclists going from coast to coast (from Santa Monica, California, to Charleston).
"I had this crazy idea: 'Let's ride our bikes across the country. See how much money we can raise,' so we rode for eight weeks, 75 miles a day, and we raised about $630,000 for Water Mission," Parker said.
The idea for Saturday's event, he said, was "to provide life to people who don't have it because of water."