It all started with a book that got him thinking. Six months later, 17-year-old Erick Skaff was swimming 704 laps for six hours straight, for a total of 10 miles, cheered on by 150 friends, family members, and the news — all to raise money and awareness for people without clean water.
The result? Coverage from the local Flint, Michigan, ABC and NBC new stations, three newspaper articles, and $15,210, which will bring clean water to more than 600 people.
“It exceeded my expectations for sure,” Erick said, “and I give credit to God for that. I couldn’t have done that on my own; people were just supporting it and doing everything they could – everyone I told was so ready and willing to help.”
During the summer of 2010, Erick read Take Your Best Shot, about a 13-year-old boy who starts raising money to fight AIDS in Africa by shooting free throws for one dollar each. Erick was inspired and realized that “you don’t have to wait until you are an ‘adult’ in a career to make a major difference in the lives of others.”
Water was an easy choice, Erick said. “I spend so much time in a clean pool all day and I don’t think twice about it. Just seeing pictures and statistics [of people around the world without clean water], it is not a luxury to them.”
He began online, researching different water charities.
“I liked Water.org because it actually empowers people in the communities,” Erick said. “It was well organized and putting money to good use, not just handing money to people. I liked that [communities] form water committees and there is project monitoring — very impressive. I also like that it took [projects] on a community by community basis and not a formula that applies to everyone in the world.”
He also liked the FirstGiving personal fundraising tool on water.org, which made it easy for him to set up his own page for the event. It explained his goal and why he was passionate about it, allowed him to easily share it with others, and track those who supported him and his fundraising progress.
Even though Erick had been in the water since he was only a few months old, had even joined a club team at age three, and had been swimming ever since, this 10-mile swim was a challenge. The most Erick had ever swum until this event was 10,000 yards. The 10-mile swim was 17,600 yards.
“It was really good but it was a mental challenge — took lots of mental toughness,” Erick said. “I prayed a lot before, and during I was so tired, but so many people were supporting me. Swim friends from my club team and my high school team, and friends from growing up, got in the pool to swim with me and they really helped me keep going.”
It takes two weeks for the body to recover from such a strenuous event, and Erick said he’s still recovering.