As a toddler, Jarrett Micah McElheney loved the water. He was fascinated by
sea creatures and spent hours in the bathtub as a diver exploring the depths
of the “ocean.”
“Little did we know,” said his mother Jill, “that this was toxic for him.”
At the age of 4, Jarrett was diagnosed with childhood leukemia (acute lymphocytic leukemia). And the well water the McElheney family had drank and bathed in since before Jarrett was born was found to contain dangerous contaminants, including benzene, a known cause of leukemia.
While Jarrett underwent chemotherapy, Jill searched for the cause of his illness. Her research and recent events at that time — such as the movie A Civil Action, which told the true story of drinking water contaminated by industry being blamed for the illness and death of eight children in one community — led her to connect Jarrett’s leukemia to the well water.
State Environmental Protection Division tests of the water supply that served the family’s Clarke County, Ga., home revealed pesticides, petroleum chemicals, and benzene; however, the agency told the McElheneys it could not conclusively prove that the water was the cause of Jarrett’s illness. Nonetheless, the well was immediately shut down and the family moved.
Jarrett’s story has a happy continuation — he responded to treatment
and is now an active 9-year-old free
of leukemia. But his mother is
determined to find happy endings
for other children. “It is Jarrett’s
mission to tell his story so others
can live healthier lives,” she said.
In March 2003, Jill McElheney started the Ministry to Improve Childhood and Adolescent Health — MICAH’s Mission, an acronym inspired by Jarrett’s middle name and the scripture from which it came.
Listen to a song close to Jill's heart.
Watch a presentation about the origin and goals of MICAH's Mission.
See some of our friends.