REENFIELD — Charlie Ketchen is always looking for ways to inspire the youth parishioners he works with at Park Chapel in Greenfield. He tells them regularly that they can use their talents — no matter what they are — to spread their beliefs and to teach those around them about their religion.
Daren Wendell illustrates that message perfectly, Ketchen said.
Wendell, a 33-year-old Michigan resident, is currently running 100 marathons in 100 days to raise money and awareness about his nonprofit, Activewater, which works to provide clean drinking water to poor countries in Africa.
Wendell is halfway through his race across the United States; the trek started in California in January and he plans to finish in Times Square in April. So far, he’s raised $95,000 of his $100,000 goal.
He is expected to pass through Hancock County next week, running from Plainfield to Greenfield on U.S. 40 on Tuesday, then spending the night in Greenfield before continuing on U.S. 40 toward Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday.
Ketchen said he and Wendell met several years ago at a ministry event. Since that time, he has been using Wendell and his story to motivate his students.
“We encourage our kids to do things they feel called to do even if it seems impossible,” Ketchen said. “We put information out about people like Daren because they are an example of that.”
Wendell has always felt that his athleticism is a gift, he said, and he’s doing his best to use that gift to help others.
He and a friend started Activewater in 2008. Since then, Wendell has hiked the Appalachian Trail, swam across Lake Michigan and walked more than 3,400 miles, all while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his charity.
Training for these projects is not easy, Wendell said. He spent more than two years trying to build the necessary endurance for this run.
“It wasn’t unusual from me to work eight hours during the day and then come home and run 20 miles,” he said.
But what’s even more challenging is getting people to understand the purpose of the run, because lack of water is a foreign concept to most Americans.
“People don’t understand what its like to be without water,” Wendell said. “Maybe you’ll have outages every once in a while, but you can just go to the nearest store and buy a few bottles. Clean, drinkable water is never too far away, so people don’t get up-in-arms about Ethiopia.”
Activewater joined forces with Lifewater International, a Christian-based group with a common goal, in 2014. Christine Zurbach, who works for Lifewater, said Wendell has taken one of more unique approaches to fundraising that the organization has seen.
With this current project, Wendell consumes more than 6,000 calories a day and will have gone through 30 pairs of running shoes by the time he reaches New York City. Wendell’s expenses during the trip are covered by corporate sponsorships; all the money he raises along the way goes straight to Activewater.
While there are no formal events planned in Greenfield for Wendell’s visit, he is inviting any area runners to join him for as long as they can while he passes through town. He plans to make a stop at Dairy Queen, at 801 W. Main St., in Greenfield.
Those interested in donating to his cause can visit rundarenrun.com.
Daren Wendell’s past projects:
Cycled 4,400 miles across country
Walked 3,400 miles across country
Hiked the Appalachian Trail
Swam 50.6 miles across Lake Michigan
Completed the Ironman and dozens of other marathons and half-marathons
* Information provided by rundarenrun.com
10 states to run through
6,000 calories consumed each day
30 shoes used by the end of the trip