A school rule. A serviceman overseas. A Friday afternoon epiphany. The power of today's youth.
Defensive end Chris Long hosted teachers and eighth-grade students from Eyer Middle School in Macungie, Pennsylvania at the NovaCare Complex following Thursday's Organized Team Activity. The school raised $5,000 and presented a check to Long's Waterboys initiative to help build wells which provide clean, accessible drinking water to rural communities in East Africa.
"I applaud you guys for understanding the importance of this because a lot of people don't understand," Long told the group during the visit. "You get it more than adults get it. You guys are the superstars."
Sean Boyle, a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army Reserves and social studies teacher at Eyer, was stationed in the Horn of Africa, primarily in Djibouti, when he received a care package from the students back in December. Boyle wanted to reach out to English teacher Lynn Dreisbach while she was preparing for class, but confusion over the time difference led him to interrupt her in the middle of a lesson. The students got to talk with Boyle and asked what they could do for him. Instead, he talked about all of the great things going on in Africa and challenged the young minds to come up with a way to help the people there.
A lot of ideas were discussed, but an idea popped into Dreisbach's mind during her commute home on a Friday afternoon.
Eyer has a rule where students can carry water bottles, but they must be clear. What if the students could sell them to provide water for the communities in East Africa? Scott Ketcham, who is also a social studies teacher, followed Long's career and knew of Waterboys. The fact that Waterboys serves the area where Boyle was stationed made it a perfect fit.
The students made the project their own. They helped conceptualize the look of the bottle, and then sold over 400 of them. The help of some additional donations raised the total to $5,000. When Long heard about Eyer's story, he invited the teachers, including Boyle, and eight students to the Eagles' facility.
Long said that 1,000 people will be able to have clean water thanks to Eyer's donation. Waterboys has raised over $1 million to create more than 20 wells and help over 75,000 people in the last two years. Long started a foundation in his name to raise money for Waterboys in 2015 after being stunned by the poverty he witnessed while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He has returned multiple times since to witness the installation of the wells.
"If I didn't do something to help other people, it would be empty," Long said. "I promise you as you grow up, the most fulfilling thing in your life is service."
This will not be a one-time donation for Eyer. The school plans to expand the program next year to continue teaching the students about the value of service.