James Leitner Pushes the Limits for Clean Drinking Water
Last year when James Leitner walked from Princeton to San Francisco to raise awareness of a lack of clean water in developing nations, he knew that even though his mind and body were being tested beyond reasonable limits that this was a feeling that he would want again.
“It’s part of a nomadic minimal lifestyle that is addicting,” said the 24-year-old Scotch Plains, NJ resident, who traveled for 143 days carrying only the bare essentials- enough to sleep comfortably and eat for three days.
The same adrenaline rush that he experienced daily on his cross-country odyssey has fueled his continued passion for clean water. On March 25, he completed a 24 hour endurance walk/run in New Jersey, and has logged countless miles since then, running all over New Jersey and New York to support his cause.
“I specifically want to bring awareness to the girls in underdeveloped nations walking to get water every day,” Leitner said. “Many girls do not feel safe walking during the day and will go at night. When I visited Tanzania in 2014, I remember meeting a 13-year-old girl who leaves at midnight to make it back just in time to make her whole family breakfast in the morning.”
Leitner said his quest to create awareness of the difficulty many face to get clean water began in high school in Scotch Plains, when he was told to write a paper on a global issue. He took up his cause after learning that more than a billion people worldwide did not have clean drinking water and that more than two billion people did not have any form of sanitation.
“Growing up in New Jersey I never had to think about not having clean drinking water,” Leitner said. “Knowing that a child who doesn’t have water can’t go to school, that mothers can’t take care of their children and that communities can’t develop and are always one step behind just motivated me to want to do something.”
In October of 2017, he formed a charitable organization called the MissionCleanWater Foundation. Its aim is to help provide communities around the world with clean drinking water. They are currently working on projects in Kenya, where Leitner hopes to travel this summer.
He learned all aspects of running a non-profit by jumping right in, Leitner said. He designed his own website, filed for the official non-profit status and formed a board of directors. He already has a list of communities around the world who have reached out for assistance for clean water and sanitation.
For now, though, Leitner is focused on a nation-wide effort to have people participate by running for clean water. He has reached out to running clubs, local race organizations, and various community partnerships. He has currently organized efforts to run in the east coast, Texas and Hawaii. His summer will be busy with over 20 events planned.
“Together with teamwork we can provide underserved communities around the world with clean water.”#
In addition to being the Sports Editor of Education Update, Mike Cohen is the Founder/Director of Throwback Sports (a sports and educational program for children of all abilities). He can be reached at email@example.com