How One Young Family Brings Safe Water to Many

Thomas, Clara, and Peter Santonicola are Lifewater donors with a long history of charitable giving, and none are old enough to drive yet.

Over the years, 12-year-old Thomas, 10-year-old Clara, and 7-year-old Peter have run lemonade and cookie stands, sold basil and tomato plants they grew themselves, and crafted homemade soaps with proceeds going to Lifewater.

Courtney Santonicola, mother to the three philanthropists, first met Lifewater staff while visiting refugee camps in the Sahara Desert many years ago.

“As I got older and got married, I wanted to help my kids understand the big wide world and that there are children who are thirsting for the very basic needs,” Courtney said.

(From left to right) Clara, Thomas, and Peter Santonicola at their basil and lemonade stand

Courtney and her husband, Steve, began with lemonade stands when the children were very young and continued by tapping into what the family already loved to do together.

The Santonicola family has a large garden at their home in Virginia, and it’s a family hobby to transplant, water, and care for the plants. This year, the kids gathered up the tomato and basil plants they’d worked to grow for many months and sold them for safe water.

“In bringing water, you are bringing life and you are bringing hope, girls education, and keeping families healthy and together.” – Courtney Santonicola

While the kids got to keep some funds for their months’ long efforts, they raised $280 for children in need across the globe. According to Courtney, this practice of rewarding the kids for their efforts and practicing charitable giving is not only motivating for the kids, but practical.

This year, Clara also made goat milk soap of all different colors and shapes.

“For her, it was an outpouring of her personality,” Courtney said. “And she did a lot more of it because it was exciting to help people in the process.”

Clara Santonicola’s goat milk soaps for safe water

There’s no doubt that the Santonicola kids got their charitable motivations from their parents. In 2018, Courtney completed a fundraiser of her own, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and raising over $6,000 to provide safe water for the village of Tirsu Fole, Ethiopia.

Finishing up 10 years as a stay at home mom and sending her youngest off to kindergarten, Courtney felt as though a natural shift was taking place in her life.

“I needed God to breathe new life into my being,” she said. “I knew it was going to be transformative for me, but I also knew it could be transformative for someone else.”

Before departing on her 70-mile journey, Courtney read stories on about young moms in Ethiopia.

“I saw this mom and I thought, ‘Wow, she’s 20 and has two kids and look where she has to get her water;’ I could connect with her heart of wanting something better and bigger for her family,” she said.

Courtney Santonicola on the Camino de Santiago

Courtney said that giving to Lifewater has been inspiring for the entire family. Her children understand that they’re changing lives for other children, and Courtney and Steven love the holistic approach that Lifewater takes.

“In bringing water, you are bringing life and you are bringing hope, girls education, and keeping families healthy and together,” she said. “I feel like it’s sort of a root from which so many beautiful things can spring forth and blossom.”

At Lifewater, faithful partners like the Santonicolas help bring safe drinking water to many children and their families. From their home in Virginia, they send girls to school in Ethiopia and help moms across the globe live free from waterborne illnesses. They transform lives.


Choose a Village. Change a Life.