- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Told they were too young to give blood, four sisters in Annandale, Va., decided to find another way to help victims of the terrorist attacks car washes by youth titled "Wash America: To Wash Away the Hurt."

Ashley, 15; Aubrey, 15; Alana, 14; and Alyssa Welch, 10, raised $10,000 last weekend from car washes at four sites in Annandale and Fairfax. The proceeds were donated to the American Red Cross.

"It has been a tremendous experience for us to get involved the way we have, but the most exciting thing is seeing how supportive the people are, getting behind us to pull this off," Aubrey said.

The four siblings decided they wanted to help victims' families after learning their father, Lt. Col. Tracy Welch, narrowly missed becoming a victim. His meeting on Sept. 11 at the Pentagon was canceled just before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building's west wing, where the office was located.

The girls have partnered their car wash project with the September 11 Fund of the Red Cross, which has set up an account specifically for this campaign through its youth volunteer department.

"We were trying to figure out a way to make people believe that this was a legitimate deal, and our mom [Cherrie] came up with the Red Cross," Aubrey said.

After the success of the first car wash, the quartet was inspired to do more. "Our classmates have been great. The Choral Boosters helped last week, and this week the cheerleaders will have a car wash, too," said Alana, who attends Annandale High School with Ashley and Aubrey. Alyssa attends Parklawn Elementary School.

The Welch sisters are urging school-aged children nationwide to participate by organizing their own car washes, with the aid of their teachers and their communities.

"They are working hard with our youth volunteer department to do this, and it's inspiring," said Kelly Alexander, spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

The girls plan to spread their idea to youth around the nation with help from the local Annandale school community, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and a pro bono public relations effort.

"Mr. Davis wanted to give them as much help as he could to promote this effort, and we are drafting a resolution, which should reach the floor tomorrow," said spokesman David Marin.

Some local high school students have already jumped on the bandwagon. Students from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda held their own car wash last weekend, and are eager to help the Red Cross.

This weekend will be the second of three Wash America events in the metropolitan area.

Mr. Davis plans to make an appearance at one of the locations this weekend, if his schedule permits, Mr. Marin said.

To lend support, stop by one of the sites in Northern Virginia: the Pinecrest Exxon on Little River Turnpike on the Alexandria-Annandale line; the Meadows Farm Nursery at 4808 Backlick Road or the Annandale Methodist Church at 6935 Columbia Pike, both in Annandale.

For information or to volunteer, call 202/336-7978 or go online to www.washamerica.org.

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