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Water Bottle Challenge race to take place at East Longmeadow High School Aug. 23

Aug. 20, 2014 | Chris Goudreau

EAST LONGMEADOW – Get your running shoes ready, “The Water Bottle Challenge,” a 5K race and fun walk aimed at promoting awareness about the environmental impacts of using plastic water bottles, is set to take place on Aug. 23 at the East Longmeadow High School (ELHS) track.

The event’s goal is to raise $2,000 for the purchase and installation of a water bottle fill-up hydration station at the high school, said Catherine Merton, a class of 2014 high school graduate who created the Water Bottle Challenge as part of her Girl Scouts of the USA Gold Award project.

“Throughout high school I was an active member of the environmental club,” she stated in a press release. “And I realized, especially through running the school’s recycling program, that the use of plastic water bottles is very common and the resulting waste is troubling.”

Merton said she was president of the school’s environmental club during her junior and senior years and every Wednesday during that time period club members collected recycling bins that were overflowing with plastic water bottles, many of which were half full.

The hydration station will provide cold filtered water for ELHS students and include a feature that shows the number of water bottles that have been saved from the station’s utilization, she added.

“I think that plastic water bottles; you’re buying water that you could get for ten cents (and) you’re buying it for a dollar,” she said.

Possible locations for the hydration station include the high school cafeteria, where a pre-existing water fountain might be replaced, or at the school’s athletic field, she said. 

“The town of East Longmeadow is incredibly supportive of the schools, and this current fundraiser is a great example,” Superintendent of Schools Gordon Smith said. “We are very fortunate to have supportive groups in town such as these that help in areas where the school budget may not be able to cover.”

Merton said she has been involved with the Girl Scouts of the USA for 13 years and had to complete both a Bronze Award and a Silver Award project as a prerequisite for the Gold Award, the highest award in the organization.

For her Bronze Award project Merton completed community service at the East Longmeadow Library such as organizing a reading and crafts event for the children’s library, she said.

“The Ronald McDonald House [of Springfield] was the focus of my Silver Award, where I, along with my troop, organized and cooked three dinners for the people staying at the Ronald McDonald House,” Merton added.

The main source of revenue for the Water Bottle Challenge is through donations and a registration fee of $20 for adults and $10 for children under 10 years old, she said. Every registered runner or walker will receive a T-shirt and a reusable water bottle.

Merton said she has hopes to have 100 people either running or walking in the USA Track & Field sanctioned event, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration at 7:30 a.m.

Any individuals interested in preregistration can fill out a form at www.facebook.com/elhswaterbottlechallenge, and mail it to 180 Maple Street, East Longmeadow, MA, 01028.

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