13-year-old Scotty Parker rides 3300 miles for global water crisis
After riding his bicycle across the country and raising over $584,000 for charity, 13-year-old Hanahan resident Scotty Parker paid a visit to the Daniel Island Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 9 to share his story.
At just 7-years-old, Parker learned of the global water crisis at his church’s annual event, “Water Sunday.” From that point on, he knew he wanted to make a difference.
“The water in our toilets are cleaner than the water that these people have to drink,” said Parker to the Rotary audience. “In my mind, that had to change.”
Instead of asking for a party and gifts like most children his age, for his eighth birthday Parker asked that his friends and family donate money to Water Mission, a nonprofit Christian engineering ministry that provides sustainable safe water solutions to people in developing countries and disasters. Through his efforts, he was able to raise $618.
“As an 8-year-old, I was like ‘holy cow, that’s a lot of money,’” said Parker. “But then I thought, ‘that’s a lot of money, but it’s not enough.’ That’s when I saw the movie, ‘The Little Red Wagon.’ It’s about this boy who walked this long distance in Florida after a hurricane to help get kids toys and stuff because they were dislocated from their houses. Right after that, I looked at my parents and said that I was going to run across the state of South Carolina.”
After consulting with his doctor, Parker decided to ride his bike instead.
“When I told my doctor I was going to run across the state, he said ‘no you’re not,’” explained Parker. “He said, ‘at your age, that’s a bad idea, but you could ride your bike.’ I hadn’t ridden more than like a mile around the neighborhood, so we started training.”
Parker and his team would train over 700 miles in preparation of the 218 mile trek across South Carolina. At age 10, he biked across the state. Through the combined efforts of Parker and his team, they were able to raise over $70,000, enough for two schools in Honduras to have access to clean water for the foreseeable future.
“One of the coolest parts about this ride was how the community came together around it and how kids supported it,” said Parker. “I mean, we had kids bringing in tooth fairy money to donate to help people get clean water. That really meant a lot to me—knowing that someone at their age cared that much about other people.”
Because of the success of the ride, Parker was invited to attend a mission trip to Honduras with Water Mission to see the schools impacted by his efforts.
“One school had 700 students in the middle of this big city, like downtown Charleston, but they didn’t have clean water,” said Parker. “They didn’t have dirty water, but they didn’t have any water at all, so these kids would go all day without having any water. So, Water Missions put a sink in every single classroom. When they cut the system on, no one would drink out of the sink because they thought it was dirty, just like all of the other water. I had to go around to every single classroom in this school and drink the water from the sink. Now these kids can focus on school and not have to worry about getting sick because of water.”
While Parker was in Honduras, he noticed something else that was missing: bathrooms. So again, for his 11th birthday, he asked his friends and family to donate money instead of gifts. They were able to raise $800, enough for two latrines to be built.
Although he had already raised a large amount of money for Water Mission, for Parker it was not enough. At that point, he decided he was going to ride his bike 3300 miles from Santa Monica, California to Charleston, South Carolina. His goal, a whopping $500,000.
But like his ride across South Carolina, Parker and his team of three, that included Peter Conway, Kyle Whitcroft and Jess McLaughlin, had to train.
“You can’t just hop on your bike and ride 3300 miles,” chuckled Scotty. “We trained over 7000 miles to get ready for that trip. We rode over the Ravenel Bridge [in Charleston] over 100 times. By now it’s probably about 200 times. That’s the only hill we have. That’s it. And when you’re in the Ozarks, it makes the bridge look like nothing.”
During the trek, Parker explained that he and his team would ride six days a week, taking Sundays off and averaging about 75 miles a day.
“We went through New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and, of course, South Carolina,” said Parker. “It was really neat seeing the entire country from a bike. It goes by a lot slower, especially up those mountains.”
On the 3300 mile trip, things were not always smooth sailing, explained Parker.
“It was hot,” he said. “When you’re going up those tough climbs or you’re going through that hot desert and it feels like the ride is never going to end, you think about those people, those kids who are still dying because they don’t have access to clean water and what this is going to do for their lives. We went through two months of heat and hills, but that’s nothing compared to what these kids go through every single day.”
When the ride got especially difficult, Parker said that he would also refer back to his faith, specifically Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he said. “I knew nothing was going to stop me…That doesn’t just apply to me. It applies to every single person in this room and in this world.”
While on their journey, the team received tremendous support throughout the country. Community members would line the road with signs, cheering on the team as they rode by. One sign, in particular, caught Parker’s eye.
“There was a sign that someone in Arizona had that said, ‘water is life,’” he recalled. “We really learned that on this trip, because you’re looking forward to every 15 miles to that water stop where you knew there was going to be clean, cold water waiting for you. That made you think, ‘people go through this same heat with dirty water or no water.’ It really helped me and my team see how important water really is. You don’t really think about it. You go to the bathroom and wash your hands in a sink—that water is clean. You use the toilet—the water in that toilet is clean. You take a shower—that water is clean. These people don’t have any clean water, at all.”
Even with his commendable efforts and impact that he has made, Parker remains humble.
“I’m just the kid on the bike, ok?,” he emphasized. “I don’t have $584,000. This money was raised because people cared. I cared, so I did what I knew how to do and rode my bike…Something I like to say is, ‘It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can help change the world.’ I was just this little 7-year-old with an idea. And now we just rode our bikes across the country and raised $584,000. That wasn’t me. That was people who cared enough to give their money to help save people’s lives.”
The donation site is still up and contributions are continually running in, with the total now standing at $589,676. To donate or read more about Parker, his team, Water Mission and their goals, visit www.scottysride.com.