In this sports rivalry, everyone wins

schandler@newsobserver.comMarch 17, 2013 

  • You can help

    The UNC-vs.-Duke contest is over, but you can donate to Aztech Labs anytime. Visit aztechlabs.org and find the “Donate” button at the top of the page.

There’s nothing like a college basketball rivalry to bring out people’s competitive side, and Zach and Aidan Hunter decided to put that fact to work raising money to buy water filters for villages in India.

Over the past couple years, the brothers, from Chapel Hill, have spent many months living in India, where their parents travel for business. They’ve seen firsthand the need for filters to remove dangerous bacteria and even worms from the untreated water villagers drink. So they started a nonprofit organization, Aztech Labs, to find ways to supply clean water where it’s needed most.

The brothers work together on Aztech Labs’ projects, which include seeking funds for a competition to design a better, cheaper water filter and supplying filters to villages, but there’s one area in which they don’t see eye-to-eye: college basketball.

While Zach, 12, and his parents root for UNC, Aidan, 9, at some point went rogue, deciding to cheer for Duke. And thus a fundraising idea was born.

“All the sudden he just turned Dookie,” Zach said during an interview from Bangalore via Skype. “And that’s when we had the realization that we should have a competition between me and Aidan to see which college could raise more money.”

The brothers invited Duke fans and Tar Heel fans to make $25 donations to buy water filters. The side whose fans donated the most was promised its school colors painted on the new filters. But the stakes were even higher for the brothers themselves: they designed some special humiliation for each other depending on the outcome.

Coming out on top with $1,350 in donations was UNC; Duke was close behind with $1,250. So the new water filters will be Carolina blue – and Aidan will have to wear a UNC shirt for a week when he returns to classes at Durham Academy and eat a burrito in the Qdoba restaurant nearest UNC’s campus while wearing a Duke shirt. He also has to endure his older brother’s gloating, but he’s no sore loser.

“At least everybody won,” Aidan said with a shrug. “At least the villagers got water filters. UNC won the contest and Duke won the basketball game.”

The campaign’s total – $5,200 with the addition of matching grants – is nearly enough to supply two villages with water filters, which the boys consider a big success. But it’s just a start to what they hope to accomplish this year.

“Our New Year’s resolution for 2013,” Zach wrote in a recent guest column for the Chapel Hill News, “was to distribute 1,000 biosand filters to 1,000 different households. That’s 100 filters each in 10 different villages.”

Zach and Aidan get a lot of help from their partner, the South Asia Pure Water Initiative Inc., an organization that makes and helps distribute the filters, but they don’t get much help from their parents, at least not anymore.

“We started out where mom and dad did a lot more, and were more part of the team,” Zach said. “Now they say they’re mostly advisers, and we’re doing most of the stuff now.”

Now that the UNC-vs.-Duke contest is over, the boys are planning their next fundraising campaigns, some of which will likely return to that endless well of North Carolina sports rivalry.

“We definitely want to keep things going,” said their mother, Lenora Hunter. “The needs continue.”

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