Tracking Scotty's journey

Scotty Parker's planned route takes him and his family on a five-day, 218-mile trek across the Palmetto State starting today, his 10th birthday:

Day 1 (today)

The family heads out from Greenville to Clifton, going through Simpsonville, Fountain Inn, then down to Laurens and to stop in Clifton.

Distance: 45 miles

Day 2 (Monday)

Clinton to Irmo, along U.S. Hwy. 76 to S.C. Hwy. 6 to Lake Murray Dam.

Distance: 53 miles

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Irmo to Orangeburg, from Lake Murray Dam along S.C. Hwy. 6 to U.S. Hwy. 21, to the intersection of U.S. Highways 21 and 178 in Orangeburg.

Distance: 51 miles

Day 4 (Wednesday)

Orangeburg to Summerville, ending at Northwood Church.

Distance: 52 miles

Day 5 (Thursday)

The last leg takes the family from Northwood to Water Missions' headquarters, 1150 Kinzer St., Building 1605, in North Charleston.

Distance: 17 miles

Ever since Scotty Parker heard that kids around the world die due to a lack of safe drinking water, he's been a boy with a mission, for Water Missions International.

Follow Scotty

Follow updates along his ride on Facebook: facebook.com/ ScottyRideforWater

Or, follow Scotty as he goes at mapmyride.com (follow Scotty Parker of Hanahan, S.C.)

Donate to Scotty Parker's Ride for Water at: scottyparkersride.com

Hear Scotty in his own words: youtube.com/watch?v=l-IKhot6-GI

Two years ago, he had a water Olympics birthday party and raised money instead of gifts. But this year, Scotty came up with way bigger birthday fundraising plans.

He went to his mom: "Let's run across the state!"

Scotty was just 9. And his mom, Pam, does not care for running.

Mom: "No."

Scotty: "Then let's bike across the state!"

Pam figured the school calendar would halt those plans. She wouldn't have him missing school.

But Scotty's 10th birthday falls today, right at the start of his spring break.

She figured it was a God thing. And Pam Parker doesn't interfere with any God things.

Mom: "OK."

In the beginning

It all started when Scotty learned about Water Missions during a presentation at the Hanahan family's church, Northwood Baptist.

Scotty heard statistics about children dying from waterborne disease (more than 1.5 million a year.) He saw pictures of kids getting their family's drinking water out of muddy, dirty trickles of river.

And he saw a glass of dirty water. He imagined drinking it.

"It made me sad," he says. "The water they drink, it kills them."

That's a lot for a kid to process.

"It just really hurt his heart," Pam says. "You try to shelter kids, but they need to know."

Training time

With his pediatrician's OK, the family began to train for cycling across the entire state.

Scotty had never biked more than a kid's average ride around the neighborhood. His parents weren't huge cyclists either. It was a learn-as-you-go project for them all.

Endurance trainer Anne Moore guided the family. Since starting a 14-week training program, they have logged about 500 miles, including several endurance hauls over local bridges that hit 66 miles, 58 miles, distances they never imagined bicycling.

"Scotty has learned the value of perseverance," Steve says.

So have they all.

One recent day, they set out to train on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Suffice it to say, it was windy. Scotty and Steve rode up and back three times and were so exhausted, the such wind a stalwart opponent, they balked.

"I knew the bridge was going to be hard," Steve recalls. They were about to give up halfway through their planned ride.

But when they reached the top again, they saw a teenage girl in a wheelchair whose friends had pushed her up to enjoy the magnificent view.

"We can't quit," Steve said. Scotty agreed.

They rode up and back three more times, six in all.

Setting goals

Originally, Scotty wanted to raise $50,000, enough to buy two Water Missions treatment systems. That's enough to change the lives of people in two entire villages that lack access to safe drinking water.

"We told him, 'You're crazy. Shoot for $25,000,' " Pam recalls.

So he did.

His parents created a fundraising web site. Scotty put out plastic jugs with the Scotty's Ride for Water logos in stores. He spoke at a local churches to raise money and awareness.

His 6-year-old sister, Lily, brought home a bag of coins from her first-grade class that was so heavy the bottom nearly busted out. One child donated $6 in Tooth Fairy money.

Scotty's great-grandmother even collected money from her friends, themselves on fixed incomes, who donated $5 here and $3 there.

"That meant a lot to me because it was all they had," Scotty says.

Then one day, his mom pulled up in the car rider line at school. She was crying.

She'd just gotten off the phone with Peter Conway, a developer and partner in a local real estate company. He is a long-distance cyclist who pedaled 3,000 miles across the U.S. in 2010 to raise money to help foster children.

A Water Missions supporter, Peter offered to help the Parkers plan their ride.

But he also was so inspired by Scotty's passion that he offered to find donors who would match the fourth-grader's fundraising efforts - dollar for dollar.

"Scotty is an amazing individual," says Rogers Hook, vice president of volunteer and investor partnerships at Water Missions.

"This young man saw a huge problem and decided to make a difference."

Then came a recent training ride.

Scotty and his parents were cycling behind a church when another child darted out from between two cars - right in front of Scotty who flipped over, taking his bike with him. He landed in a heap looking as if he'd been impaled by a handle.

He was wearing a helmet but threw up, a sign of possible internal injuries. His parents took him to a hospital for an ultrasound and CT scan.

Scotty was fine. He even spoke at a local church the next morning, as he'd promised. Then, with his doctor's consent, he got back onto his bike and kept training.

A mellow kid with a sheepish grin and a soft drawl, he says of the accident: "Well, it's not very often you get hit by a kid."

By last week, Scotty had raised $21,000. Northwood members will take Scotty to his $25,000 goal.

That means with Peter's matching donations, Scotty will have raised $50,000 - as he originally wanted, despite grown ups insisting that he aim lower.

"We were limited by our belief system," Steve says. "But children are not limited that way."

Scotty just points to his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Setting out

On a recent afternoon, his parents arrive back at their business, Parker Land Surveying Inc. in Hanahan, freshly stocked up on water, granola bars, Band-Aids, you name it,

Scotty says he's not nervous.

"The thing I am most excited about is reaching my goal," Scotty says.

When they first started training, Pam remembers breaking down one day, feeling like she couldn't go any further. Scotty comforted her.

"Mom, this isn't just about clean water. It's about getting you healthy, too," she recalls him saying.

While raising three children, like many mothers, she'd let her own health take a backseat. But Scotty's ride pushed her to get back into shape.

"Doing this has been amazing," Pam says. "It's made me know that I can do anything I set my mind to."

Same with Scotty's dad. Steve always liked to run. But back surgery in June left him sitting out last year's Cooper River Bridge Run. Training with Scotty has boosted his fitness, too.

"This has been a great journey," Pam says.

If all goes according to plan, Scotty will set out from Greenville today, his birthday. It's Palm Sunday, the day Christians celebrate Jesus' riding into Jerusalem to kick off Holy Week.

Tonight, the family will celebrate Scotty's birthday with chocolate cake.

Their group will ride about 50 miles a day for four days, arriving home Thursday around noon.

Scotty's sisters, Lily and 2-year-old Emmylou, will ride on the final day after serving in the pit crew along the trek.

Family and well-wishers will ride the last segment home to a noon homecoming celebration at Water Mission's headquarters in North Charleston.

And after Scotty's ride is over?

"We're a little nervous about what he might do next," Pam says.

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.