For a lot of teens, summer is the chance for the big vacation for the year. This summer Scotty Parker took that opportunity and gave it a twist: riding his bicycle from coast to cast in order to raise money and awareness for the Water Mission, a Christian charity which leverages their expertise in environmental engineering to bring clean water to developing nations and disaster zones.
We asked Scotty to share his journey across the nation with us, in pictures and his own words.
We started our 3300-mile ride for clean water and hope June 3rd at the Santa Monica Pier in California. I was so happy 4 friends and mentors believed in the ride for water and wanted to make a difference too that they gave up their summer and rode too.
My sisters and parents did so much to help me get ready for this day and were giving up their summer too. We had just flown in a plane across the country now we were going to pedal back home. It was mind-blowing. There were so many emotions. I was so happy and nervous. But I was mostly excited about the journey ahead with my team and the lives that would be changed because of this ride.
I can’t describe the feeling I had in this picture. According to our map this was the biggest climb we were going to have. We had a lot of tough climbs and the heat was brutal. This was toward the beginning of our ride and I had to really dig deep to not quit. I relied heavily on my faith and I knew that no matter what I could get up this mountain and kept saying to myself Phil 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This was in Arizona. On the way up this mountain was this really cool place called Oatman. There were wild burros that wandered the streets and even took stuff out our pockets of our riding jerseys. Kinda cool how one of the hardest days also had one of the coolest experiences. When we got home we named our new dog after that town…Oatman.
One of the best parts about the ride for water was the people we met. You know every day you hear something negative. People always talk about all the bad stuff in the world. This ride showed there is so much more good. Every day of this ride we met someone who was making a difference in their own way or supported the ride and wanted to help others. The second day of the ride we met a man in late 80’s that was in the military his whole life. He fought for our freedom. He came out and talked to us and shared his story. He took our picture and when we got home had mailed copies of the pictures he took. One lady that really hurt my heart came up to us at a gas station. She was trying to get home from her nieces wedding and only had $5 to get home on but she insisted I take it to help get people clean water. I tried hard to get her to take it back because she needed it but she was insistent she wanted to be a part of helping people. It wasn’t about the amount it showed the big heart she had. Another lady had heard about the ride on facebook and found us and had handmade a blue rose to signify water and gave it to me. She told us about the conditions she lived in growing up and how clean water meant so much to her. She worried about getting sick and her family members dying from diseases caused by dirty water. Now she doesn’t have to worry about that here but she was in tears because she was thankful we were trying to help people like her. There was this other lady her son joined us for half the day one day. She was a hair dresser and she volunteered to cut the whole teams hair. She gave 8 haircuts that day for free. She used her talents to help others. So cool. The lady in this picture is Hazel. She volunteers 3 days a week at Conoco on Historic Route 66. She moved there after her husband died and she just spreads joy to everyone she meets. She hugged us all was so nice and happy.
So I would say the hardest part of riding my bike across the country was the heat. Holy cow it was so hot. I had to do it during the summer since I was out of school. The desert was so dry. Our GPS on our bikes got up to over 130 on the pavement. It was so dry we didn’t sweat. Water was so important. It really made me see how vital water/clean water is. There was one day I got a little over-heated and the whole team stopped for an extra 30 minutes so I could rehydrate and cool down. Some of the coolest parts were the things we got to see. I learned we live in an amazing beautiful country. The desert was pretty – hot but pretty. The mountains were hard to climb but when you got to the top it was some of the prettiest sights you would ever see. My faith was strengthened with every climb. You could see for miles and see rivers and streams. We crossed the mighty Mississippi River, saw some of the coolest farmland, and old barns. Sure made me thankful to live in such a pretty place.
I was so glad to get to see pretty places but I think one of the best days of the ride was the day we hit South Carolina. We made it to our home state. Now I know what they mean when people say there is no place like home. I had already ridden my bike across South Carolina when I was 10. I knew what to expect and we had so many friends that would be joining the ride after we got into South Carolina. That last 5 days was so much fun. Realizing we actually did it!! Riding with friends who all were there to help get people clean water. We laughed a lot. It was so much fun and it felt good to talk about the ride over that last 8 weeks and all the cool things we saw and the amazing people we met. That was one of the best weeks of my life. It was a week to reflect and see giving up one summer is nothing compared to what people go through every day just for clean water. I was exhausted but so thankful for all the people who were a part of making a difference in my life and the lives of so many people that were going to get clean water.
Every time I see this picture I either cry or get a big lump in my throat. This was us riding back into Summerville on the second to last day. We rode into Northwood Church and all these kids were sitting on the curb screaming and giving me five. It was a reminder that it really doesn’t matter how old you are you can make a difference in this world. A lot of these kids had done chores to earn money for clean water. They had lemonade stands. Some even gave tooth fairy money. That is what this ride was all about. Putting other people’s needs as important as our own. I really hope that this ride helps people see we can make a difference in our own way. I am just a 13-year-old kid. It’s funny I never excelled at any sports and went to speech therapy for a long time but I knew how to ride a bike and that how I could help. I had a birthday party when I was 8 to raise money for clean water, road my bike across South Carolina when I was 10 and now that kid who wasn’t a huge athlete road across the entire country raising over $616,000 and shares with people and groups all the time. We are ALL world changers!
This picture is what started it all. I saw this picture when I was 7 at church. A guy from Water Mission came in and told us about the global water crisis. I had no idea people didn’t have what I have. I thought everybody had clean water. It hurt my heart so bad. I couldn’t quit thinking about and that kids were dying just because of water. About people who don’t have a toilet. We have 2 in our house. Water Mission helps provide clean water and sanitation to people and I wanted to be a part of it. A lot of times I sit and daydream about the ride or think about riding across the country before I go to bed. I get tears in my eyes. Not because of the ride itself but thinking about the people it will help. That could be me, my parents, my sisters, or my friends that don’t have clean water and I really hope that someone would care enough to help them. You know if this world were just a little different it could be me. The ride was so huge and so many people came together to give to help change peoples lives forever. Now that they get clean water their kids won’t have to worry about getting sick and all the generations after. They will have more opportunities to go to school because they aren’t sick anymore. I really hope that kids and adults see it doesn’t matter how old you are or if you have anything to give you can help change the world. No idea is too small!