Amanda Ferguson

Amanda Ferguson, who collected 60,000 bottles of water last year in honor of her brother, helped kick o the Mesa Hydration Donation Campaign at United Food Bank

The temperature Wednesday hit 106 degrees – hottest day of the year, with plenty more like that and hotter to come.

Days like that make Amanda Ferguson think of her brother.

One day in August 2013, Bill Grimmer got up early, grabbed a pack and left his Chandler home, off for a bike riding trip to Sycamore Creek trail off the Beeline Highway. He was joined by a group of biking friends.

“A few hours later, those friends called us to say Bill was lost in the desert in 115-degree temperatures,” Ferguson told a crowd at the United Food Bank.

Searchers were called out, but by the time they found Bill, he was dead from heat exposure.

He was 31, in great shape and had extensive experience in rugged terrain.

“How can this happen when we live in 115-degree weather every day?” Ferguson wondered. “How can this happen to someone who had done two tours of duty in Iraq and was trained to survive in the desert.”

Unable to find resolution to those inexplicable questions, the Mesa mother of two decided to put her considerable energy to work in helping others.

Bottles for Bill, she called her campaign.

Two years ago, she bought several cases of water and asked friends and associates if they would donate. “To my surprise, I had enough money for 9,000 bottles of water,” she said.

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, she raised enough money for 60,000 bottles of water.

Her goal this year: 75,000 bottles of water.

Ferguson in turn delivers the water to the Mesa Hydration Campaign, headquartered at the United Food Bank.

She was at the food bank Wednesday, helping the city kick off its annual water drive.

For the past 15 years, the annual Mesa Hydration Donation Campaign has been saving lives during the extreme Arizona heat. This summer, the city hopes to collect 400,000 bottles of water “to help Mesa’s most vulnerable residents.”

As Ferguson put it, “Not everyone has the resources to protect themselves from the dangers we face every day.”

A Michigan native, she came here 10 years ago, when older brother Bill begged her to come west. She and her then-boyfriend (they are now married) moved in with Bill and his wife in their Chandler home.

This year’s Bottles for Bill campaign takes place June 11-20.

“We always do it for a 10-day span,” Ferguson said. “Bill had twin boys in 2011 but his son Logan passed away after 10 days. He used to say, ‘For me, it’s a short period of time. But for Logan it was a lifetime. So I can change the world in 10 days.’”

For more information or to donate, visit bottlesforbill.org or facebook.com/bottlesforbillaz.

For a list of city-sponsored drop-off locations throughout the city, visit mesaaz.gov/H2OMesa. 

To donate a pallet for around $150, contact Melissa Forrester at mforrester@unitedfoodbank.org.

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