Rachel Beckwith had a dream. The 9-year-old Issaquah girl wanted to help provide clean water to African villages.
For her birthday last month, she told her friends to donate to an organization – charity:water – that does that, instead of giving her presents.
Her effort raised $220, but it was $80 short of her goal and her family closed the bank account set up to accept donations.
Now, her tragic death last Wednesday in a 15-vehicle accident on Interstate 90 has spurred thousands to continue her dream by donating $140,000 to the cause.
Rachel died when the car driven by her mother was struck by a semi-trailer that jackknifed in heavy traffic and crashed into a logging truck. Rachel was taken off life support several days later due to head and spine injuries.
The public outpouring came when the church the family attends – Eastlake Community Church in Bothell – asked the community to help meet Rachel’s goal. Word spread. Donations poured in – many, from people who never even knew the little girl.
One donor who gave $44.25 listed as Anonymous said her 4-and 5-year-old daughters were particularly moved by Rachel’s story.
“After they donated the contents of their banks to Rachel’s birthday wish, they knew they could do more,” the donor wrote. “The girls planned, prepared, and manned a lemonade stand yesterday in honor of Rachel. They told each customer about the importance of clean water and how we can all help to make sure people all over the world have access to it. Rachel’s legacy will live on forever!”
Another donor who gave $50 listed as Scott Garrepy wrote: “Rachel, I sat next to your aunt on a plane the day of your accident, as she was coming to see you in the hospital. I told her I would be praying for you, her, and your family.”
Last Sunday, the Eastlake congregation held a memorial service for Rachel, hearing from family members and close friends as they shared love and memories of the young girl.
“Over and over again people shared what a beautiful and generous heart Rachel had,” said Pastoral Assistant Aaron Noble in an email. “As her father described, ‘Her heart was bigger than this room,’ referring to our huge auditorium.”
It’s that same, selfless heart that inspires Noble. First. Rachel gave up her 9th birthday, then when she was $80 short, had planned to give up her 10th birthday, too.
“On June 12, 2011, I’m turning 9,” said Rachel’s statement on the charity:water website.” I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before.”
Since Friday afternoon, her campaign has gone from $220 to $140,000.
“And it grows every time I refresh the page,” Noble said.
To help Rachel’s cause, go to: www.mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=16396.