Wishes Granted

Last Updated: December 24, 2023By Categories: Drilling, Features

Water Well Wish is busy trying to achieve its goal of providing all Americans access to clean water.

By Michelle Morse

Veterans Day is a time every Fall in which we have a chance to thank those who served our nation.

Jobsite for Fussell Well Drilling, which drilled two wells for families through the Water Well Wish program.

November 2023 provided some people in the groundwater industry an opportunity to really show a veteran how thankful they are.

Former U.S. Marine John Sensanbaugher of Blacklick, Ohio, put his life on the line during back-to-back tours in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012. He was injured by an IED (improvised explosive device) while traveling in a Humvee, which resulted in major back injuries and the start to his battle with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

No longer in the military, Sensanbaugher is now a husband to Katelyn and father to two children, aged nine and six. His property, however, no longer had access to clean, safe water last fall, and he was unable to afford a new well.

That’s when Water Well Wish stepped in. Water Well Wish is a program that debuted for the Groundwater Foundation in 2023. Its mission is clear: To ensure every American has access to clean, safe water.

“We learned of John and his family’s story and their need for water after finding out they had been denied assistance through a water well loan program,” says Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC, the CEO for the National Ground Water Association and the Groundwater Foundation.

The water well on the Sensanbaugher’s property collapsed in June 2023. The family had been without water ever since. They were having to run a hose from the grandfather’s house next door for water and would have to go to the grandfather’s house for showers and to use the restroom.

John Sensanbaugher and his family received a well through Water Well Wish on Veterans Day 2023. Sensanbaugher is a U.S. Marine veteran.

Until the Veterans Day 2023 weekend.

A new well was drilled at no cost to the family. The Water Well Wish was made possible due to the partnership of Keen Well & Pump Inc. in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and Worthington Industries/AMTROL Inc.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide this military veteran and his family with a new well,” Morse says. “And our work will continue until all families and individuals throughout the United States have access to one of life’s most basic needs—clean, safe water.”

Sensanbaugher expressed his gratitude for the new water well, saying, “It’s like hitting the lottery. You don’t realize all the things you need water for, like washing dishes, flushing toilets, cooking, cleaning. I don’t think people realize how blessed we are to have running water in the house.”

The Groundwater Foundation completed five other Water Well Wishes last fall and winter. They were for:

Miranda Weller of Fredericktown, Ohio. For two weeks, Weller lay in a hospital bed writhing in pain as her body went through withdrawal from the contaminated water she had unknowingly been consuming for years.

It wasn’t until her water bottle had sat half full one day that she noticed a foul smell and decided to have her water tested. When the health department came, they found several contaminants in the shallow well that had been hand-dug in 1858.

Weller was advised to immediately stop using her well, which she depended on not only for drinking but also for bathing, brushing teeth, cooking, cleaning dishes, and what else.

Jackson Geothermal drilled a well through Water Well Wish for a household that had been using a hand-dug well that was more than 150 years old.

It also wasn’t until this discovery that Weller’s medical team was able to connect the dots as to why she had gone into kidney failure. It was because of years of consuming contaminated water. She is now on dialysis three times a week and awaiting a kidney transplant.

Unable to work her previous job, and with medical bills piling up, the idea of funding a new well was out of reach. That is until she heard about Water Well Wish. Jackson Geothermal of Mansfield, Ohio, was happy to assist, and today, Weller finally has clean, safe water.

Robert Barrett of Bailey, Colorado. As the caretaker of his diabetic wife and disabled adult daughter, this retired Korean War veteran was feeling the weight of the world when he could no longer depend on his well for water. The pump was failing, and plastics were finding their way into the filter.

Among other life changes, Barrett was having to purchase bottled water for drinking and cooking for his family, and regularly hauling laundry into town to clean.

He was told with his military discount his well pump could be replaced at a reduced cost, but it was still money he didn’t have to spare. That’s when Water Well Wish stepped in, and with the help of Aspen Drilling Co. Inc. in Morrison, Colorado, was able to get the family’s well running once again to provide them with clean, safe water.

“I cannot tell you how grateful I am for Water Well Wish,” Barrett says. “Having this expense covered is such a huge relief for me and my family. You have taken such good care of this military veteran.”

Rob Defosses of Warren, New Hampshire. Now between severe flooding and a rerouted river, Defosses’ well was destroyed, and became nothing but slop and muck.

With an older child in the home, and a new baby on the way, Defosses and his wife knew they had to come up with a solution—and fast. While they couldn’t afford to have a new well drilled, they also could no longer afford the time and money it took to continuously fill 5-gallon jugs with the clean water they needed to live their daily lives.

Capital Well Co. Inc. in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, provided a well for a family that has been called a “dream come true.”

According to Defosses, Water Well Wish, with the help of Capital Well Co. Inc. in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, has been a “dream come true” for his family, and just in time for the arrival of their newest family member.

Isha and Derrick Neal Jr. and Lester Axson of Polk City, Florida. For more than a decade, the Neal family happily shared a water well with their next-door neighbors, the Axson family.

Unfortunately, the well began giving them problems and eventually collapsed altogether. Another neighbor graciously allowed both families to run a hose from his property and draw water from his well. It was greatly appreciated, yet both families knew it was a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

The well was deemed irrepairable. Though the need for a new well was immense, especially with three young children in one of the homes, neither family could afford the steep cost.

Water Well Wish, with the aid of Fussell Well Drilling of Auburndale, Florida, was able to step in. Both families now have a water well of their own.

When asked if life has improved moving forward, Axson says, “Things have changed 100 percent for us. Both sides are happy, and we thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts!”

Want to Help?
Donate today to Water Well Wish, a program of the Groundwater Foundation, working to provide Americans access to clean, safe water. Click here to learn more and donate.

Michelle Morse is the program manager for Water Well Wish and contributing writer for Water Well Journal. Morse can be reached at mmorse@ngwa.org.

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