MESA, AZ — A Valley woman is organizing a water drive in hopes of raising awareness about the dangers of heat after her older brother died of heat exhaustion in August 2013.
Amanda Ferguson created "Bottles for Bill" and hopes to collect 300 cases of water or about 10,000 bottles. The water will be distributed by the United Food Bank in Mesa.
Bill Grimmer was only 31 years old when he died. Ferguson said he was out riding dirt bikes with friends at Sycamore Creek when he was separated from his friends. He got lost and didn't have cell service.
"I thought we'd end up in the hospital with an IV and a cast, and it didn't work out that way because there were other dangers we weren't fully aware of," said Ferguson.
She said she never expected that he would die because he was active and healthy. The Army veteran was married with a 20-month-old son named Alex.
"It was unbelievable," she said. "We don't want to be afraid of the heat, we just need to be aware of the heat. It's around us each and every day, and it is a real potential danger and you are vulnerable."
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, nearly 3,000 people end up in emergency rooms because of heat-related illnesses each year. More than 2,000 people have died from excessive heat exposure in the past 10 years.
Tyson Nansel from the United Food Bank in Mesa said they're in dire need of water donations. They've partnered with the city of Mesa on its annual Hydration Donation Campaign that has a goal of collecting 400,000 water bottles.
"We're only reaching 50,000 at this moment, and we started this campaign in the beginning of June, so it's a real struggle to get water for us so we can get it to those in need right now," said Nansel.
He said homeless people rely on donated water, and rural communities are asking for help.
"The agencies out in Show Low, White Mountain Apache reservation, San Carlos reservation they just don't have good drinking water. Can't get it at the store and with a big drought season we're in, we have excessive heat warnings, there's just a need for water in those communities."
The health department recommends that even people inside drink at least 2 liters of water a day. People spending time outside should drink 1 to 2 liters per hour.
Learn more about Bottles for Bill here. Anyone interested in donating money can use Venmo: @bottlesforbill and Paypal: email@example.com. People can also drop off cases directly at the United Food Bank in Mesa in his memory. All donations will be sent to United Food Bank to distribute.