About 16 years ago, Greg Parks’s son suffered a severe closed-head injury falling out of a golf cart, which resulted in learning disabilities.
His son, Steve, now 29, stayed active in Snider High School, working as a manager for the football team, so Parks and his family attended games in the early 2000s.
But when Parks asked Steve about whether he saw a certain play or a nice catch, he would say that he was busy running back and forth to the team’s locker room, fumbling with a large tank to fill up water bottles—a time-consuming, tedious task.
So as a dad who liked to tinker with things, Parks decided he would create a way for his son to help the football team get easier access to water right on the field.
Using an old metal frame, a barrel cart, wooden handles from a posthole digger, and wheels from a lawnmower, they cobbled together a water caddy on wheels, sort of like wheelbarrow, which distributed the weight.
Greg Parks, right, and his son Steve, left, next to the first water cart they built together for the Snider football team.
Over the years, Parks refined the concept and added hoses for players to get drinks themselves. He went from working out of his garage in Georgetown to renting a space in the Korte building at 10920 Stellhorn Rd. in New Haven, and what resulted was a family business called Wheelin’ Water. Wheelin' Water recently sold to the Los Angeles Rams.
They make easy-to-maneuver, food-grade, water-on-wheels carts that have sold to high school and college athletic teams all over the United States and Canada. And recently, they even sold to the Los Angeles Rams.
“We’re hoping to get more NFL business,” Parks says.
A retired warehouse manager at the age of 65, he gladly explains that, other than his son, he’s the youngest person at his company of four contract workers.
They make water carts ranging from 12 gallons all the way up to 100 gallons, and while their primary customers are athletic teams, Parks says the army and navy are also buying the carts. He’s even working to develop new models and features for events of all types.
“We went from building one cart, to developing eight to 10 cart models,” Parks says. Dwenger football players using their Wheelin' Water cart.
In fact, after Hurricane Harvey in Houston last fall, his company rallied the support of regional businesses to donate 24 of his “Big Squirt” 20-gallon carts to schools affected by the disaster.
After watching a report on the Today show, Parks got in touch with a program called Athletes in Need with the Houston Independent School District, and learned that 200 area schools had to throw away much of their athletic gear because it was destroyed by floodwater.
As part of a project called Team Relief Houston, Parks got more than 15 regional donors to create and ship Wheelin’ Water carts, so athletes in affected schools could have easy access to water during games.
He says his mission with the project was to show Houston that northeast Indiana cares.
“My whole goal was to say, ‘Look what Northeast Indiana can do,’” he says.
Teams in Houston receive the Wheelin' Water shipment.
Locally, you can find Parks’s Wheelin’ Water carts at almost any high school football games for Homestead, Dwenger, Carroll, Snider, and more.
In 2018, Fort Wayne is also hosting three events for the Special Olympics, so Parks is working with Turnstone to design a cart for athletes of all abilities.
He hopes his focus on providing higher quality, custom carts at a market rate price will continue to help his business grow.
Parks says most of Team Relief's sponsors are from northeast Indiana.