Merrill familiy plans Portland-to-Bellevue run to raise money for African wells

Liz Strathy-Merrill and her husband, Nick Merrill, are taking the marathon to an all-new level, all for a cause in which the two fiercely believe. The Bellevue couple will run 200 miles from Portland to their Bellevue neighborhood, each of them running 25 miles a day, almost a complete marathon for four-straight days August 26-29.

Liz Strathy-Merrill and her husband, Nick Merrill, are taking the marathon to an all-new level, all for a cause in which the two fiercely believe.

The Bellevue couple will run 200 miles from Portland to their Bellevue neighborhood, each of them running 25 miles a day, almost a complete marathon for four-straight days August 26-29. The proceeds from their project, “Running for Water,” will benefit the Drop in the Bucket organization to build water wells in Africa.

Drop in the Bucket is a non-profit organization run by Los Angeles record producer John Travis and his girlfriend. The organization raises money to build the wells in African villages and educates and empowers the villagers on how to maintain and fix the well.

Each well costs $3,500 to build. Liz and Nick’s goal is to raise $35,000 to build 10 wells.

“We know it’s a big goal, but we just want to help build some wells,” said Liz, 44, from her home in Newport Shores. “We thought we’d make our own adventure, and why not have it benefit something we both believe in? We wanted it to go to a good cause.”

Liz and Nick’s passion for the cause came from a random moment at a triathlon the pair had entered. Liz was watching a man compete who was putting his proceeds towards helping to clean up water in Africa. It stuck with her.

“I did a bunch of research on my own,” she said. “I don’t know why it stuck with me, but it stayed in my heart. I never really knew the desperate need for [clean water].”

When Liz, a loan officer at the Legacy Group, and Nick, 29 and a personal trainer, found Drop in the Bucket’s Web site (www.dropinthebucket.org), they knew they had a match.

“They don’t just blow into a village and blow out,” Liz said. “They form a well committee, teach them how to take care of it and maintain it. They can trade water with other villages. They just do a great job of educating the village.”

All the money Travis raises goes directly to the wells, with no administrative fees; the organization has completed 11 wells in Uganda, as well as one in Mozambique. The wells provide clean and healthy drinking water to the villagers as well as spell relief for children and women in the villages whose primary roles are to collect the water - something that Liz said particularly struck her.

“I look at my kids and think I’d be sending them off on foot to get our water for the day, to walk all those miles,” she said. “That was a huge reason for it.”

Liz said she’s not too worried about the run, despite it being just short of running four days of marathons. The couple are marathoners and avid runners.

“We’re pretty hardcore into running, but I’d be lying to you if I said it wouldn’t be hard,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of training and I don’t want to kid you, it will be hard. I think the third day will probably be the hardest.”

The couple will depart from Portland on August 26, planning to stop each night in a pre-determined hotel, and ending with their friends and family in Bellevue.

Liz said they have raised enough money for two wells so far, saying the pair “need to get serious” on collecting some big donations. Those interested in donations can make them through Drop in the Bucket’s Web site by clicking on the donation tab and specifying the amount is for the “Running for Water” project.

“We are really excited and we wish it was this weekend,” Liz said. “It’s going to be such an adventure. The main thing is want to do something that we love together and have it benefit something that has been on our minds for years. We just want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Learn more

www.dropinthebucket.org