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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 29, 2020

A little grant runs a long way for clean water

By By Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian McCrum, MyCG Writer

Endurance athlete and Coast Guard Ens. Katie Spotz used a $200 Morale, Well-being and Recreation program sports grant to fund a 137.8 mile run through Maine, and fundraising $26,000 for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene programs around the world.

The MWR sports grant is open to active duty members and provides reimbursement for race registration fees or helps cover travel costs. Spotz took the grant opportunity and ran with it. 

Stationed at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in South Portland, Maine, Spotz became the first person to run 137.8 miles nonstop across the western border of Maine.

Spotz created a fundraising event in partnership with Lifewater International, a non-profit organization that supports children and families in extreme poverty with clean water resources. Through her “Run4Water,” giving page, Spotz hosted numerous small fundraisers. Her efforts garnered the attention of local media, social media coverage, her story was shared, and funds were raised. All proceeds raised were donated to the charity.

“Constantly promoting it is what made people aware of it and aware of the cause,” said Spotz about her constant communication through her giving page and social media.

Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Collins is the sports grant program manager at the Coast Guard Community Services Command. The program is open to all active duty Coast Guard service members, recognizing the importance of health and physical fitness activities in athletic competition.

“We want people to be active and healthy, and the competitiveness of sports helps with that mindset,” said Collins. “The grant provides some financial relief for making those commitments.”

Collins said that the grant has been around since 2000, but not many people know about it or how it works. In 2019, MWR distributed $6,200 in sports grants for events including Ironman triathlons, marathons, golf tournaments, and even the National Ninja League world championships and the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k. MWR invests in these grants to recognize the importance of athletic competition in overall wellness, and to encourage folks to get out and participate in active community events.

“Basically, anything someone can connect to a sport is reimbursable,” said Collins. "Each competition entry fee is reimbursable and even travel-related expenses may be compensated by 50% for travel beyond 100 miles from an athlete's residence.” Funding assistance may be provided for two competitions each year, February 1st through January 31st.

Spotz had set an original goal of $10,000 for a clean water project in Tanzania. Preparations included planning travel accommodations, to purchasing gear, to using mapping software to determine the most direct route, all done on her own.

“I did an event that was never done before,” said Spotz about charting her own path and race. “It was more challenging to plan because it wasn't an organized event.”

Spotz said that she was amazed by the overwhelming support from her followers on the giving page. Even though it was during a global pandemic, people’s generosity shown through their own hardships.

Spotz first learned of the Coast Guard sports grant program at Coast Guard Station Buffalo, New York.

“The officer in charge, Chief [Eric] Lyle, mentioned the program and encouraged me to apply. Every little bit helps,” said Spotz.

For her Run4Water event, Spotz was able to help cover the costs of her race lodging using the grant.

 In total, Spotz completed the 137.8 mile run across Maine in 33:40:57.

Spotz wrote to her supporters on her fundraising website, “It's not every day that you can say these words, but today is that day. We've reached the goal and now $26,000 has been raised for a clean water project in Tanzania on behalf of Lifewater International.”

Spotz nearly tripled her original goal, with donations coming from supporters all over the world.

You can read more about Spotz's journey and the clean water initiatives by visiting her website.

To learn more about the sports grant program, contact the Morale, Well-being, and Recreation (MWR) team.