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Swimmers take laps so others can take sips of water

12-hour Swim for Pure Water' in the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on Monday evening.

Opening a bottled water or taking a sip from the drinking fountain in between classes is a luxury not everyone can afford.

The Ohio State men and women’s swim teams swam 12 hours at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion on Monday to help make clean drinking water more accessible worldwide.

About 1.1 billion people, or three-and-a-half times the U.S. population, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to thirstrelief.org.

The OSU swim team’s “Water to Water: 12-hour Swim for Pure Water” event started at 8 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m., capping the beginning of “Pay It Forward Week,” a week of service on campus that the Ohio Union’s ServeCorps puts on, according to payitforward.osu.edu.

Forty-six varsity swimmers and 20 to 30 recreational swimmers swam during the day, and the triathlon club dedicated its nightly workout to the cause, said Ben Savonen, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering and event organizer.

At least two swimmers were in the water at all times.

The swimmers swam on either the scarlet or gray team at half-hour intervals from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Savonen said. Participants collectively swam more than 58 miles.

The proceeds of the event went toward Thirst Relief International, a non-profit organization that campaigns for clean drinking water, Savonen said.

“Dasani and Aqua Falls donated hundreds of bottles of water for this event. We have been handing it out with information taped to it and bracelets with information on them to people coming and going from workouts,” said Nathan White, the director of operations for Thirst Relief.

Savonen and White said they were pleased with the turnout of the swim-a-thon.

“We hope to make it an annual event. It’s a good first-year run,” White said.

They aim to turn it into a competition between swimmers of the Big Ten, Savonen said.

“We would have total laps swam, distance and money raised and see which team can beat our numbers. It’s a good year to set a benchmark,” Savonen said.

The team had a couple of goals for the event.

“In terms of yardage, we expect to have 40 miles, which is our minimum goal,” Savonen said. “There’s a specific project we are working toward and the cost to fund that project is $3,000.”

The project, funded through Thirst Relief, is called the Cameroon WASH Project, Savonen said.

“(The Cameroon Wash Project) helps transform not only an entire community but an entire generation and the generations that follow. Children are being taught sanitation and hygiene training, like how to wash hands properly. They are also being taught how to maintain their water supply,” White said.

Participants of the event made it into a friendly competition between the scarlet and gray teams. The scarlet team won by less than 50 meters or about two laps.

“I don’t have a specific goal; I just want to beat my teammate Zach Holmes, who is swimming next to me,” said Andrew Elliott, a third-year in marketing.

Elliott said he raised $65 for the cause through donations from family.

Organizations like Thirst Relief International have helped to decrease the number of people who don’t have access to drinking water from about 1.1 billion to 884 million, White said.

$5 can give a child clean water for life, according to thirstrelief.org.

Savonen and White did not have an estimate of how much money had been donated. 

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