Since 2006, Tony Canaday has volunteered at the Indiana Blue Star Salute - an event that has grown from a local program to one that last year gave out more than 1,200 Blue Star Banners to the families of active-duty servicemembers.
But the 17-year-old Canaday, a sophomore at Cascade High School in Clayton, Ind., wanted to do more. As the son of a 31-year member of the Army and Army Reserves, and the younger brother of another Army soldier who just recently returned from a tour in Iraq, Canaday felt a sense of obligation.
So he contacted Ralph "Zoc" Zoccolillo - chairman of the Indiana Blue Star Salute and a member of Post 145 in Avon, Ind. - about other possible volunteer opportunities.
"I didn't just want to go around wearing a (Blue Star) T-shirt and sit at a booth again. I wanted to do something else," Canaday said. "I wanted to be more active. I wanted to show some leadership."
The pair came up with the idea of putting on a series of car washes around central Indiana, with the money raised at each car wash benefiting The American Legion Legacy Scholarship fund. The fund was established to provide scholarship money for the children of U.S. servicemembers killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
"So many people discriminate against people serving in Iraq," Canaday said. "These people are giving up their lives to protect us. They're putting their lives on the line for us. We should be showing them our support and make sure they know we support them."
Canaday and more than a dozen of his friends, including younger brother Jake, took part in the first car wash on April 10 at American Legion Post 64 in Indianapolis. They raised $304, which Post 64 agreed to match, bringing the total to $608.
"To see these kids out here raising money for the Legacy fund - raising money for other kids, that's pretty cool," Zoccolillo said. "They understand what they are doing. Why they are washing these cars. They've read up on The American Legion Legacy Scholarship.
"This could be a start to a great youth movement. This is really outside of the scope of a lot of what The American Legion does with youth."
Watching her sons and the other youth take part in the car wash was a moving experience for Lorrie Pierce, the mother of Tony and Jake. Pierce spent 14 years in the Army and another 17 in the Army Reserves. The master sergeant will be deployed to Iraq in nine months.
"It's incredibly overwhelming when you see these kids supporting something you've devoted 31 years of your life to," Pierce said. "It makes a mom pretty proud."
This year's Blue Star Salute event is June 19 at Stout Field Military Base, 2002 S. Holt Rd., Indianapolis. For more information on the Indiana Blue Star Banner Salute, or to find out information about upcoming car washes, click here.