Marcus Garfinkle focuses on the up-side

Until the Infiniti sedan ran a red light and struck 19-year-old Marcus Garfinkle in the early morning hours of March 29, 2009, he would have said he was a very lucky guy. But lying by the side of the road on a busy Los Angeles street near the campus of University of Southern California (USC) with the bones in both legs completely shattered, the muscles of his arms ripped out and an 18-inch gash across his abdomen, Mr. Garfinkle had to come to terms with a harsh reality: he might not live.

“I regained consciousness after I hit the ground,” he says. “I knew I was badly hurt. I told myself I could either give up or fight. I made up my mind right then to use all my mental and physical strength to get through this. Positivity allowed me to survive.”

In the darkness, several hundred yards down the road, his companion, 18-year-old Adrianna Bachan, a fellow freshman at USC, lay dying of massive head wounds. Unlike Mr. Garfinkle, she never had a chance.

If you didn’t know the painful story of his last 15 months, you’d think Mr. Garfinkle was a normal young man today. Tall, lean, confident, and handsome, he radiates energy and enthusiasm. Back on the Vineyard for his 11th summer, this West Tisbury resident has spent countless hours in the hospital, in grueling physical therapy and in the gym, working his way back from crippling, life-threatening injuries. Sheer tenacity goes a long way when you’re strong, fit, and young.

The accident and its aftermath — the outpouring of support from friends, family, and complete strangers across the U.S. — led to an epiphany for Mr. Garfinkle. “I plan to use the opportunities I’ve been given. I don’t want to waste a single minute. After all I’ve been through, the grass looks greener, the sky bluer, the stars brighter. Even the littlest things seem amazing.”

He’s not wasting any time. The son of a self-made entrepreneur who retired at 32, Mr. Garfinkle grew up in privilege. Summers were spent in sailboats and on the tennis court at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. This summer, he says, will be completely different.

Now 20, with a birthday approaching in July, Mr. Garfinkle has started his own business, a house-cleaning service staffed by college students using “homemade” completely green products. All American Sudz, “The All Green Collegiate House Cleaning Team,” is, he says, his way of developing business acumen and paying back. “I designed the company to change the way homeowners will feel, creating cleaning products that are chemical-free but incredibly effective. I want the company to benefit the client and the environment, to have a positive impact on society and to give me the experience to run companies in the future.”

After extensive research, he formulated 13 products using ingredients many people keep on their home shelves: baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, essential oils, and pure castile soap. He and his team of eight to ten employees will bottle and label the products, using them in homes, boats, and automobiles across the Island. “I want to take the house-cleaning business to a higher standard,” he says, “and make it safer for families.”

At $22 per hour, his cleaning rates are surprisingly reasonable. “I can pay my team a good hourly wage and still make a profit,” he says. He has invested $7,000 of his own money in start-up costs but is optimistic about All American Sudz’s future. “I’d like to expand to Nantucket and the Cape next summer, then nationally if it is successful.”

Liquid Flow Clothing has already come aboard as a sponsor, providing the company with fast-drying microfiber shorts. Mr. Garfinkle says he’s been approached by other companies and individuals interested in supporting his venture as well.

“The accident has had a huge impact on my life, but I’m focusing on the up-side,” he explains. “Using the connections and amazing opportunities I’ve been given, I hope to make a difference in the world.”

The driver of the vehicle that hit him and Ms. Bachan was apprehended and found guilty, sentenced to serve eight years in prison. Her husband was also charged and faces seven years behind bars. Witnesses described how the car ran the red light, striking Mr. Garfinkle and Ms. Bachan, then carrying Mr. Garfinkle on the hood of the vehicle, his feet and lower torso shattering the windshield and entering the front of the car. The couple stopped long enough for the driver to push Mr. Garfinkle’s legs from the inside as her husband dislodged him from the windshield outside, tossing him by the side of the road.

Today Mr. Garfinkle still picks tiny shards of glass from his arm as it continues to heal. Multiple skin grafts, the insertion of titanium rods, and numerous other surgeries have failed to dim his drive. A film student at his “dream school,” Mr. Garfinkle envisions owning his own film production company within eight years.

“I’m determined to live life to its fullest every day, ” he pledges. “For Adrianna and for myself.”

For more information on All American Sudz, visit www.allamericansudz.com or call 508-645-1006.