Nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith did not want presents for her June 12 birthday. All she wanted were donations to the non-profit Charity Water. Her wish was to raise $300 for the charity that funds projects in 19 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
On a website set up by Rachel and her mother before her birthday, she explained the inspiration for her project.
“I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday,” Rachel wrote. “And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before. I’m asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations.”
Rachel had only raised $220 by her June 12 birthday, so she closed the page.
On July 20, Rachel sustained serious spinal and head injuries in a massive 13-car pileup on Interstate 90 in Bellevue, Washington. She was traveling in a Lexus Sedan with her 2-year-old sister Sienna while with her mother Samantha Paul on the steering wheel. Rachel was on life support after the accident but sadly, on July 23, she was taken off life support. Her mother and 2-year-old sister were also in the car, but survived.
Rachel’s pastor at Eastlake Community Church, Ryan Meeks, asked the charity to re-activate her fundraising page for anyone who wished to donate in her honor.
As news of Rachel’s cause spread, more and more people donated to Rachel’s page, touched by her selflessness.
Donations to her cause have swelled since her death to more than $520,000as I am writing this post, with gifts pouring in from almost 15,000 people, many in gifts of $9 each.
Donors wrote on Rachel’s page that they were touched and humbled by her generosity, calling her an angel.
“What great things can be accomplished by the wish of a little girl,” wrote a donor who identified herself as Leann Groby.
On Monday, Rachel’s mom, Samantha Paul, who was also injured in the accident, thanked donors on Rachel’s online charity page for their generosity.
“I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter’s dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope,” Paul wrote. “I know Rachel is smiling!”
Rachel’s fundraising campaign has quickly become the largest in the history of “charity: water,” which raises the bulk of its money through pages like the one Rachel created, where a person asks their friends and family to donate for a special event or in their honor, said spokeswoman Sarah Cohen. A number of donors were inspired to start their own “charity: water” pages.
The charity says each $20 donation is enough to give one person access to safe, clean water for 20 years. In the past five years, the New York-based charity has raised $48 million and supported 3,962 water projects.
“We’ve all been so deeply moved by Rachel’s unselfishness,” said “charity:water” founder Scott Harrison, who used his own 34th and 35th birthdays to raise money to bring clean drinking water to Africa. Rachel had been inspired to support the charity after Harrison spoke at her church.
If you wish to do your part in Rachel’s honor, go to her donation site here.
What a gift from God Rachel’s charity will be for so many people who will never know her.
You are an angel and an inspiration to the whole world. You have shown the world what a single person can do. RIP, little angel!