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Published: Monday, 3/23/2009

Bowling Green State University's Tap Project aims to bring clean water

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Paying just $1 for a glass of water that is normally served in restaurants for free can help provide clean water to the nearly 900 million people in the world without it.

That's the idea behind UNICEF's Tap Project, which Bowling Green State University students have brought to northwest Ohio.

Paul Hemminger, 19, a BGSU sophomore from Sandusky studying marketing, found out about the charity and wanted in.

He organized some students to go to a conference in Chicago last month to learn more and get materials to spread the word, and then came back to recruit restau-rants. "We're just a bunch of passionate people who decided we wanted to change the world and this is the way to do it," he said.

The goal is to get restaurants to participate and ask patrons to donate $1 for the glasses of water normally served for free. Every dollar raised will provide a child with clean drinking water for 40 days, according to UNICEF.

The Tap Project started in 2007 in New York City with just 300 restaurants and quickly became national, with more than 2,300 establishments participating last year.

The week-long awareness project coincides with World Water Week. It started yesterday and lasts through Saturday.

The BGSU students who brought the project to the area were able to register eight restaurants in Bowling Green, Perrysburg, and Toledo, and also encouraged four more to participate unofficially, Mr. Hemminger said.

The Tap Project is as much about raising funds to provide clean water as it is about spreading awareness, said Mr. Hemminger, who admitted he was surprised by some of the project's statistics.

In particular, he learned from the Tap Project's Web site that waterborne illness is the second-largest killer of young children, with more than 4,200 dying every day because of water-related diseases.

"The only reason we do this is love for those people. We've never met them, but we know they exist," he said. "In our society, it's hard to see beyond the drinking fountains. We take it for granted."

Doug Thompson, another BGSU student working on the local campaign, said their job didn't stop with recruiting restaurants and they plan to do even more on campus to spread the word.

Dirty jugs of water representing the water conditions for many in the world will be visible at a table outside the student union, where $1 donations will be accepted, said Mr. Thompson, 19, a sophomore from Perrysburg studying psychology.

During the week, students also will carry around those jugs - which will have different messages taped to them - to spread the message further, he said.

"I think a lot of people want to make a positive difference in the world and don't really have an outlet to do it," Mr. Thompson said. "This project is a way for us to go out there and do something good for not only the local community, but the global community as a whole."

Just in its first year, the BGSU campaign wasn't overly organized and really got going just a couple months ago, students admitted. There were about 10 core volunteers this year.

The students hope to continue to grow the Tap Project's popularity in northwest Ohio.

"It starts somewhere," Mr. Thompson said. "We're hoping people will think this sounds cool and say, 'I wish I would have signed up for this,' and they will next year."

For more information, including local participating restaurants, go online at: www.tapproject.org.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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