BURNT HILLS: Will ride for water

It all seems so simple.

Concrete boxes are filled with sand containing natural bacteria that purify contaminated water and eradicate 80 percent of dangerous waterborne diseases.

Yet in impoverished countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Guatemala, this simple solutionof filtering water to combating illness isn't widely available. In these and other developing countries, children are routinely found crying from stomach pains, unable to attend school, and in the most severe cases, dying from rampant infections.

The cost to build a water filter is $100, and one local Rotary member has pledged to provide the slow-sand pure water filters for an entire village for a lifetime.

As a new member to the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary of Saratoga County, Mark Gasparovic of Charlton went to a Rotary district assembly held at Union College in Schenectady. There, he found his personal mission for his service work with the club.

I wasn't aware of the impact of the poisoned water, and it was staggering news to me, said Gasparovic, who works as a geographer making maps. "These people have absolutely nothing: not safe shelter, not enough food, not even clean water."

Gasparovic searched for a fundraising plan that would interest other Rotarians yet not place a burden on members who already invest so much of their own money into programs that help others.

He decided to put his foot to the pedal and ask for pledges for the number of miles he rode on his bicycle.

The project was also a healing one for him.

"I had a hernia operation in 2005, and was off the bike for a few weeks," said Gasparovic, who turns 50 this year. He says he isn't in any better shape athletically than most people. "In March 2006, I started logging in the miles, and by December, I'd gone more than 6,000 miles."

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