20 athletes, 16 countries, 15,200 miles, 95 days.

How far do you walk every day for a glass of water? A few feet to the kitchen? Down the block to the supermarket?

If you were living in Asia or Africa, that distance could be almost four miles. Each day, women in Africa, Afghanistan, India, other parts of Asia, and Central and South America spend hours on foot searching for a safe source of water. And despite their efforts, 6,000 friends, family members, and neighbors will die every 24 hours as a result of an inadequate supply of safe drinking water. Over the span of a year, the death toll climbs to 2.2 million.

The Blue Planet Run Foundation is not taking this statistic sitting down. Created in 2002 by industrialist and philanthropist Jin Zidell, the Blue Planet Run Foundation is on a mission to provide safe drinking water to 200 million people for the rest of their lives by 2027.

And they're making progress, one step at a time. On June 1, 2007, a team of 20 athletes, representing 13 nationalities and ranging in age from 23 to 60, will lace up their sneakers and join the Blue Planet Run Foundation in their efforts to spread the message of the need for safe drinking water. The team will circumnavigate the Earth's Northern Hemisphere, running in 10-mile nonstop shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week from June 1, 2007 through September 4, 2007.

This is no jog in the park. The 15,200-mile running route passes through four continents and 16 countries, including Russia, France, England, Ireland, Mongolia, and Japan. Cities along the route will host local events to raise awareness about the lack of safe drinking water, and educate people on how they can make a difference.

"If I can make a difference and create that awareness, then I feel I have done my bit in my lifetime," says Melissa Moon, one of the runners selected out of 300 applicants, who is no stranger to volunteering for a good cause.

The 37-year-old special-needs teacher from Wellington, New Zealand, a self-proclaimed peacekeeper and potato-lover, has worked at a soup kitchen for seven years, delivered Meals on Wheels, helped out with Project K and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and is now doing relief teaching at the Compassion Centre in Wellington.

An international runner for 12 years, Melissa has traveled to more than 30 countries. It was during her travels that she realized the importance of safe drinking water. So when a friend e-mailed her about Blue Planet Run while she was in Nigeria, where she experienced firsthand the need for clean water, Melissa jumped at the chance to participate. Naming her hero and inspiration as the Dalai Lama, Melissa tells the Blue Planet Run Foundation that she has compassion and understanding for the suffering that exists in other parts of the world.

"I do not perceive this as something I must do, but something I am compelled to do," Laurel Dudley tells Blue Planet Run Foundation.

For Laurel Dudley, a 26-year-old ecotourism guide and fellow in the East West Center's Asia Pacific Leadership Program, Blue Planet Run is the perfect outlet for her interest in travel and global issues. Born in Vermont and currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii, Laurel has followed her wanderlust all over the world, spending time in France, Gambia, Taiwan, Mali, Morocco, and Vietnam.

The issue of sustainability and water usage strikes a chord with Laurel, having experienced the benefits of a newly installed water pipe while in Mali. She recently participated in a conference in Vietnam on sustainable development, and stresses the importance of taking interest in the well-being of those around the world.

A runner for 10 years, Laurel couldn't wait to participate in Blue Planet Run, and combine her passions for running, travel, and promoting sustainable development.

Luckily, we don't all have to be top athletes to make a difference in the water crisis. Just $30 is enough to provide a lifetime of safe drinking water to one person. A donation of $100 will be enough to supply an entire family. To donate or learn more about the Blue Planet Run Foundation, go to www.blueplanetrun.org.

Also worth checking out is the Peer Water Exchange, developed by the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a grassroots online community where donors, nongovernmental organizations, and observers work together to democratically manage and monitor rural water projects worldwide. To learn more about Peer Water Exchange, go to www.peerwater.org.

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