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When Arno Ekkert died in a car accident in 2009, while making plans to run across southern B.C. to raise money to help impoverished Africans, his family and friends took up Arno’s very worthy cause.
“We ran from Osoyoos to Vancouver – a total of 420 kilometers over 13 days,” recalls Tim Walton. “We were blown away with the support after the run was finished, and Lifewater was picked by Arno’s family after some research to see what Canadian organizations operated in Africa with little overhead.”
Tim and his running mates called their fundraising event the “Desert Run” because they had to navigate their way through a scorchingly hot part of the southern Okanagan region that is Canada's only official desert.
The event in 2009 generated about $50,000, notes fellow runner Phil Seel. It was enough money for Lifewater to drill several urgently needed water wells in Africa in Arno’s memory.
Tim and Phil and three other Desert Run team members travelled to Liberia in 2011 to visit some of the well sites. They did it to “honour our friend and his dream of one day going to Africa,” says Tim.
The group, accompanied by Lifewater president Lynda Gehrels, stood teary-eyed while the first well was dedicated in Arno’s name, and then met joyful villagers who were benefiting from the flowing water.
Tim, now a farm manager near Salmon Arm, B.C., and his family have continued to support Lifewater Canada because “we feel so passionate about the work that Lifewater does.”
He says: "The picture I took there (during the well dedication) still hangs on my fridge today to remember both my friend and how good we truly have it in the Western world (where safe water is abundant).”
Phil, now a Vancouver realtor, and his family have also continued to provide financial support. “I wish Lifewater all the best moving forward, and God’s rich blessings,” he says.
Tim Walton (left) and Phil Seel (right) in Liberia at one of the wells for which they raised funds to honor their late friend, Arno Ekkert.