Jonathan Tonkowich is not your typical executive director of a nationwide organization.
A few months ago he was a senior
That began to change in January,
when he watched as many of his classmates attended the West Coast Walk for Life
After a little brainstorming and a
lot of praying, Tonkowich’s inspiration came to him:
organize a “
Modeled on the familiar parking
lot car washes held by school and church groups,
Tonkowich brought his idea to his
Ingrid Mitchell, another member of that school’s graduating class of 2006, was so impressed with the prospect that she put off her graduate studies in psychology to help as the organization’s assistant director.
“I love the idea of
An army of two, Tonkowich and Mitchell soon began collecting other
classmates who wanted to help. They also caught the attention of the college
chaplain, Jesuit Father Cornelius Buckley. The priest gives an enthusiastic
endorsement of the
“These young men and women, though
not all Catholic, are indeed esprits forts in
the true sense of the term,” he explains. “They want to use their
With the exception of Hillary Rowney, who will be a junior at Thomas Aquinas in the fall,
the other key team members of
in Tonkowich’s hometown of
The group will raise awareness about options available to pregnant women — options that do not include abortion.
And it will organize and amplify the voices of concerned and engaged youth groups, creating a venue for social impact in individual communities, making them heard on a national level and allowing young people to make a difference for life in their own backyards.
Since settling in at their
Recently Tonkowich met with Catholic writer and commentator Michael Novak, one of the leading intellectual lights in the Church today. Novak told the Register he was impressed not only with the caliber of the young people but also with the ingenuity of their project.
“Wash for Life is one of the most practical and innovative programs for young people I have encountered in many years,” he says. “All who support the ‘culture of life’ should rev up their autos and SUVs for a good washing.”
Love in Action
Other such encounters have
followed. In June the
Wash for Life may be just a well-organized fund-raiser — or, below the suds, it may be something a little more.
“Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), “is an essential task which every generation must take up anew.”
With notable verve and
determination, six young adults from a small liberal arts college in
Look for them and their “franchisees” at a parking lot near you — and be sure to hold off washing your car till Sept. 16.
Robert Brennan writes from
Wash for Life