Youths participate in Wash for Life

COLUMBIA — Youth groups from two parishes in the Diocese of Charleston joined 112 other groups from 41 states to be part of the first national Wash for Life.

As of Sept. 18, groups reported donations totaling $53,184.04 with almost 4,000 cars washed on Sept. 16. Funds will be donated to local pregnancy care centers.

Wash for Life was an idea that came  to Jonathan Tonkowich, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif. It seemed a perfect way to match the enthusiasm of youth with a concrete way to help support the culture of life.

Tonkowich and five other college students began promoting the event, which kept growing.

“Enough people came alongside to help make it happen, and we went national,” Tonkowich told The Miscellany in an interview. He serves as executive director of Wash for Life.

In Lexington, word reached Corpus Christi Church’s youth group. They accepted the challenge of putting the event together with little preparation time. The youth group, along with volunteers, raised $538.

“I think it [Wash for Life] was a strong enough event that it needs to be continued every year on a national scale,” said Brian Murdaugh, youth director at Corpus Christi Church.

Murdaugh said the youth had a wonderful time, and he plans to sponsor Wash for Life next year in addition to another planned pro-life fund-raiser this spring. He feels that awareness of these activities is as important as the funds raised.

“In a day and age where teens have fund-raisers for themselves all the time in order to pay for trips, this event was different,” said Joan LaBone, youth director at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken. “It was truly selfless because these kids got up early on a Saturday morning after a riveting high school football game the night before, and in good spirits worked hard to raise money for someone else. I think that is terrific.”

The St. Mary youth group brought in $384 with the help of 15 volunteers.

LaBone felt the whole weekend worked well, with Wash for Life on Saturday and a chastity talk at LifeTeen on Sunday. She said these events were great ways to kick off the upcoming Respect Life month in October.

Kristin Hansen, vice president of Center Innovations and Communications, said on the Wash for Life Web site that “the initiative is proof that the pro-life movement is not only alive and well, but young, creative and pro-active.

“The globally-aware youth of today want to do more than just protest — they want to be practical and innovative. By partnering with pregnancy centers, Wash for Life is connecting youth with the means of directly helping women choose life. We applaud their efforts!”

For more information on Wash for Life, visit or call (703) 241-7171.

Submitted by Kathy Schmugge, coordinator, Office of Family Life.