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Car wash raises money for girl who needs heart transplant

Money will go towards medical expenses for Athena Dunkin

June 13, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

HALFWAY --Hagerstown resident Zoe Van Meter said she's a sucker for good causes.

So when Van Meter, 28, saw a sign for a car wash fundraiser to help a little girl who needs a heart transplant, she pulled beside Advance Auto Parts in a white Scion xD.

At least seven people -- family members and friends of Athena Dunkin -- went to work washing the car. Athena's grandfathers, Pete Ladygo and Brenton Snyder, put some muscle into scrubbing dead bugs off the front grill.

They were thankful for the work. Thankful that so many people wanted to help their granddaughter, who was born Sept. 24 and has spent the last 2 1/2 weeks on the waiting list for a heart transplant, her family said.

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The car wash was the first fundraiser held to help the family with medical bills, said Athena's grandmother, Christina Snyder, 43, of Hagerstown. Athena's parents, Hollie Willard and Nicholas Dunkin of Hagerstown, have medical insurance through the state, but are still paying bills from Athena's stay at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Snyder said. Then there are the bills to come from The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Athena has been for about a month, Snyder said. The family doesn't know how much the insurance will cover.

Plans are in the works for a dance and bake sale in July, and a spaghetti dinner at the Wacohu Grange Hall near Huyetts on Aug. 15, according to Christina Snyder and Jill Smith, Athena's aunt.

Sunday's car wash raised $1,232, Brenton Snyder said. That included a $500 donation from Dave Hessong, owner of A-1 Sedan Transportation, he said.

It also included money collected by the Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was holding a free car wash catty-corner to the fundraising car wash.

When organizers of the free car wash at the Auto Zone lot by Food Lion realized there was a fundraising car wash across the intersection, they decided to give any donations they received to Athena's family, said Alyssa Truman, personal ministries leader.

"One person's problem is the world's problem really, and the more we can do to help, the better," Truman said.

Back at the Advance Auto Parts lot, some people were just pulling in and donating money without staying to get their cars washed.

"I really thank a lot of people. Thank people for coming out here and everything else," said Ladygo, who quit his job in Conway, S.C., to move back to Washington County and help his family.

"That's my granddaughter," he said.

The family got a boost Sunday morning when Jocelyn Dunahugh and her mother, Kristin Johnson, stopped by, Christina Snyder said. Jocelyn, 2, of Hagerstown, underwent a heart transplant in March.

Jocelyn's grandmother, Kathy Repp, stopped by later in the morning and got her Pontiac Montana washed.

"I wanted to stop by and offer some support because I know what the family is going through," said Repp, 53, of Big Pool.

Repp and Christina Snyder exchanged a couple hugs as Snyder expressed optimism for Athena, nicknamed "Sunshine" for her fire red hair and blue eyes.

"Our Sunshine's going to shine again," said a tearful Snyder.

An account has been set up at My Bank First United Bank & Trust to help Athena's family with medical bills. Checks can be written to "Heart Transplant Fund."

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