Car wash rakes in cash to keep kids off tracks

By Wilson Brown

Staff writer
Published: 5/24/06

Tiffany Davis, 15, was hoping to at least make $500.

But by the end of the day May 20, the Willowbrook High School student and Villa Park resident, along with her family and friends, surpassed her goal, collecting more than $2,000 to put toward mending fences and planting thorny shrubs near the railroad tracks in Villa Park.

"I know that I've washed 100 cars," she said, wiping her brow and putting down her sponge as another line of cars approached the Veterans of Foreign Wars parking lot at 39 E. St. Charles Road.

Car washes were only $5 a car or $7 a truck. But the response was so overwhelming, according to the Davis family, that some people were donating $100 or more and driving off without a wash.

Volunteers also came out in full force.

"They're my friends and family," Tiffany said of her 30 or so helpers. "And some people I don't even know."

The teen hatched the idea of holding a car wash to raise awareness of railroad safety after one of her high school friends, Kristen Bowen, 14, of Lombard was struck and killed by a train in February while trying to cross the tracks about a quarter-mile from Addison Road.

Village officials in Villa Park and Lombard, along with a newly formed railroad safety task force, are studying ways to keep children and adults from crossing the tracks at illegal and dangerous points.

"In the past two years a lot of people have died (crossing the tracks)," said Billy Ward, 16, a fellow volunteer and classmate of Tiffany's.

Ward and other volunteers wore Operation Lifesaver T-shirts and rubber wristbands with Kristen's name on them.

"We ordered a thousand of them," Kristen's sister, Margie McCaleb, 22, of Lombard said of the wristbands.

McCaleb and other family and friends spent most of the day advertising the car wash while standing behind a large blown-up photograph of Kristen in front of the Jewel and VFW parking lots.

McCaleb praised the car wash fundraiser, but said she worried that thorny bushes and wooden fences that the money would go to wouldn't keep children from taking shortcuts across the tracks.

"It's a good start though," she said.

Even though some Willowbrook and Jefferson Middle School students are still cutting holes in the chain link fences near the tracks months after the death of Kristen, the car wash could help by keeping parents aware, some of the volunteers said.

Tiffany will present the money earned from the car wash to members of the Villa Park President's Committee on Public Safety at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 27, at the Villa Park Village Hall, 20 S. Ardmore Ave.

Wilson Brown's e-mail address is:

Reprinted with permission from the Villa Park Argus

Please feel free to comment on this article in the Blog section of this web site.