Annual 5K raised money for clean water in Africa

Dan Marecki kicked off Saturday’s 5K race to raise money for clean water in Africa by singing The Star Spangled Banner.

First runner in was James Pisano of Seymour. He ran the 5k in 18 minutes and 29 seconds. Karen Newman of Greenwich defended her title as first female in 21 minutes 13 seconds.

The oldest runner was Attorney Herman Bershtein at 89 years old: He ran it in 48:14 and won second place in his age group.

“With the runners and walkers and our many generous sponsors, we are very close to reaching our goal of providing clean running water to the village of Nganiko, Uganda,” said Jane Holler, co-founder of the Milford-based group Uganda Farmers Inc., which hosted the 5K run at Foran High School Saturday.

“This project will service about 5,000 people and a medical clinic,” Holler said. “So many people will benefit.”

Since 2006, when Holler and her husband, Dan Marecki, formed Uganda Farmers Inc., close to 30,000 people in remote villages in East Africa have gotten clean water for cooking, bathing and drinking.

Holler and Marecki formed the non-profit Uganda Farmers Inc. after being moved by a presentation a visiting priest made to parishioners at St. Gabriel’s Church in Milford. Holler said that Father George Muganyizi educated parishioners about the conditions in rural areas of Africa.

The Milford couple started by raising money for goats and other necessities, and they helped fund a micro-finance program to help African women start businesses. Then the Holler’s turned their attention to the need for water.

While there are many causes in the world, Holler said the couple was moved to lead efforts to bring water to Uganda because water is one of life’s simple necessities.

“Clean water is just so basic,” Holler said. “Clean water is essential to life, and it doesn’t really cost much to get clean water.”

So far, four Ugandan villages have benefited from the local fund-raising efforts, and the organization has targeted a fifth village to help. The funds go toward having wells drilled, pipes laid, surveys done and solar-pumping systems installed.

“It is not too late to donate to the cause through our website,,” Holler said.