91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Wash America
Three Sisters Learn to Lend a Hand
By Karen Fanning

The car-washing fund-raiser by sisters Ashley, Aubrey, Alana, and Alyssa Welch became a nationwide campaign to raise money for families affected by the terrorist attack of 9/11. (Photo Courtesy http://www.washamerica.org)
Alana Welch was sitting at her desk taking an English test on September 11 last year when she heard a gasp. She looked up to see her teacher listening to the radio. Within seconds, Alana and her classmates learned that an airplane had struck the Pentagon. She was stunned.

"The first thing I thought was 'Oh my God, Dad!'" says the Annandale, Maryland, teen. "My dad was supposed to be in the west wing of the Pentagon that morning."

After several frantic phone calls, Alana, 15, finally got in touch with her mother, who assured her that her father was safe. That night, when her father walked through the door, Alana broke down in tears and gave him a big hug.

Many other American children were not so lucky. Alana and her three sisters, 17-year-old Ashley, 16-year-old Aubrey, and 11-year-old Alyssa, wanted to help as much as they could. Within days, they launched a small-town fund-raiser that grew into a national campaign.

With the help of friends, neighbors, and classmates, "Wash America: Help Wash Away the Hurt" raised $10,000 during the first weekend. Some customers generously donated $20, $100, and even $1,000 for a car wash. Edelman Public Relations got wind of the girls' project when they heard an ad on a local radio station.

"They got involved right after the first weekend," says Alana. "They helped us design T-shirts. They designed a Web site for us. They helped us talk to radio stations, news stations, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Oprah. They really helped us go big."

And big they went. Before the sisters knew it, hundreds of kids from 31 states had joined the crusade. In February, the Welches presented a check for $85,000 to the American Red Cross — a happy ending to a project that was inspired by the spirit of giving.

"We realized how close we came to losing our dad," says Alana. "Just the thought of losing him was really too much to think about. So we wanted to do something to help the families who did lose someone. I'm glad we could help. It makes us feel special."

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