Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.
The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania," Boyer says. "His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug."
The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks' Russell Wilson, the Steelers' Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles' Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.
"Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself," Boyer recalls. "But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy."
Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country's current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.
"Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well" says Boyer. "It's pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It's a huge deal to them."
That's what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the "Kilimanjaro" setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas' Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.
"I told him I'm doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart," Boyer said. "I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He's like, 'I got just the guy.'"
Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson's first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.
"I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why," Boyer remembers. "I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, 'I'm in, dude. I'm in.' He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people."
Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they're pursuing.
"It's not just, 'I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'" Boyer says. "It's like, 'I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,' or 'I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.'
Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it's also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.
"We're people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don't have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it's really easy to get lost and feel like you're never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That's the impetus behind this whole thing."
To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.