For a few moments Tuesday morning, 9-year-old Tessa Lewis balanced a 40-pound jug of dirty water in her arms and then tried to imagine carrying it for two miles or more.
“That would be hard,” said Lewis, a third-grade student at Harloe Elementary School in Arroyo Grande.
She and dozens of her peers gathered to meet a Southern California man who is running from San Luis Obispo to Pasadena — about 250 miles — to raise money and awareness for a local nonprofit that helps people in developing countries access clean water.
Thirteen classes at Harloe Elementary raised $400 to donate to Roy Wiegand of Burbank, who will pass the proceeds along to San Luis Obispo-based Lifewater International.
Wiegand, 49, hopes to raise $10,000 for Lifewater’s work in Ethiopia. On Monday, he visited Los Ranchos Elementary School in San Luis Obispo, where students had raised $1,116.
Wiegand arrived at Harloe Elementary to cheers, pushing a specially made stroller containing a clear jug full of dirty water to symbolize “the fact that 780 million people globally still don’t have access to safe water,” according to Lifewater International.
Some women and children have to walk several miles to find water that is often not potable, according to the nonprofit.
Wiegand also showed students a smaller bottle filled with dirty water that was brought back from Ethiopia, adding “this is what ends up in ponds or streams.”
Third-grader Elijah Carlson, 9, also had a chance to heave the jug into his arms.
“It’s heavy,” he said. “I’m surprised that kids can even carry it. Their arms must ache a lot.”
The money raised by Harloe students, Wiegand said, will give 10 people access to clean water for the rest of their lives.
“Guess how many lives you saved with that money,” he told students. “Ten lives.”
Then, Wiegand ran a lap with a group of eager first-graders from Sandee Sistek’s class, which had raised the most in donations.
Several students said the experience showed them how important it is to have clean water and why they should work to conserve it.
“I realized how lucky we are to have so much water,” said sixth-grader Danielle Scudder, 11. “I find myself taking shorter showers. If I don’t finish a bottle (of water), I don’t throw it away. I fill it up and save it for tomorrow.”
For more information about Wiegand’s run, go to www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/roy-wiegand/roys-run. He has raised money for Lifewater for several years; last year, he ran 110 miles in 24 hours, raising $7,000.
To learn about Lifewater, visit www.lifewater.org.
Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.