July 24th, 2011
11:05 PM ET

After girl's death, selfless act lives on

[Updated July 25, 4:25 p.m.] For her 9th birthday last month, Rachel Beckwith told people that instead of giving her presents, they should donate to a charity providing clean water to families in developing nations.

The Seattle-area girl came up with $220, short of her $300 goal.  She figured she’d try to raise more money next year.

Then came the crash.

Rachel died Saturday, taken off life support at a Seattle hospital three days after she and six other people were injured in a 14-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90 near her home in Bellevue, Washington, CNN affiliate KOMO reported.

But before her death, as word of Wednesday’s crash spread, so did news about Rachel’s fundraising wish. Her church took to Facebook, Twitter and its own website to promote her cause.

As of Monday afternoon, Rachel’s online fundraising page for the nonprofit group "charity: water" had landed more than $130,000 in donations, from more than 2,400 donors.

"Rest in peace knowing that your wish is helping people in ways that you could have never imagined," one contributor wrote on the campaign site.

Ryan Meeks, one of Rachel's pastors, said that "life is coming out of this death, with Rachel's generosity."

"It's inspired many, and it’s been amazing over the last 24 hours," Meeks told CNN's Don Lemon on "CNN Newsroom" Saturday night.

Rachel chose to help the nonprofit group after its founder spoke at her church, Eastlake Community Church in Bothell, Meeks said. On her fundraising page, Rachel explained her goal.

"On June 12th 2011, I'm turning 9. 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," her fundraising page says. "I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday."

"She cares about other people more than herself," her aunt, Veronica Del Rosario, told KOMO for a story that aired Saturday. "She wanted everyone to give money so that children and parents could have water."

The charity says all of its public donations directly fund water projects. Its 2009 annual report said that in a three-year period, it provided 2,321 clean-water projects, helping more than 1 million people in 16 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.

The church was scheduled to hold a service for Rachel on Sunday night.

"For a 9-year-old kid, a huge step of faith would be to say, 'Hey, for my birthday, I don't want anything. Give to those who are in greater need,'" Meeks said. "And not everyone’s that mature at 90, and yet here she is modeling for us at the age of 9, how to live that kind of life."

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Filed under: Charity • Washington state
soundoff (489 Responses)
  1. Lin

    According to the local Seattle news, her family also donated her organs because they knew she would want to help even more people. What a very special little girl. My deepest sympathies to her family.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ramtough

    If a child this young can be so selfless, surely we as adults can do the same. I saw one post complaining about the little girl donating to other countries instead of the poor here in the US. That is what makes the story of this little girl so selfless. Yes, the poor here do need help indeed, had she lived I'm sure they would be helped too by her selflessness, but she may have been thinking along the lines that there are countries whose governments don't assist their poor with welfare or food stamps. Some of their ppl have nothing at all to eat or drink and do not get the proper nutrition. God bless this little girl's soul. I'm sure that her reward is great in heaven.

    July 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stephanie

    This is a heartbreaking story, but it does prove that in spite of all the horrible things we hear about in the news, there are some good people left. An angel truly is back at home smiling down on us.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Eric

    Always the doubting CPA, I just plowed through their 2009 990 filing and their 2010 audited financial statements. I was quite surprised to note that a great percentage of all revenue, including all private donations actually went to water projects.

    I have seen too many charities that spend much of their money raising money; much of that money ending up in the hands charity insiders who pay their own related fundraising companies for high-priced-development work.

    In 2010, $10.8 million of a total of $16.1 million (67%) was raised from individuals in 2010 and $9.5 million of the total of $11.6 million (82%) expended was directed to program expenses. The 2009 990 form noted only two officers as paid employees (both full-time) and the total paid to both was less than $175,000 (not much in New York where you can easily pay $40,000 a year for a 1 bedroom apartment in a decent building). If their grantees have similar efficiencies, then it would appear that most of the money really is going into holes in the ground.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MS

    I think I have something in my eye

    July 26, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. n3kit

    Thank you Rachel.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mukudi

    An African man took your woman Sanjomike. Or is it that some African woman took you man. They made babies and you are offended. We are not oppressed women and we are not all Muslim. There are large households in rural America. It is something about rural, maybe.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. lou

    Those who can't believe this little girls cause actually originated from her, have never takenthe time to teach their own children morality. Children have a natural curiousity about the world & when their questions are answered honestly, they comprehend that everyone is not as lucky as those of us typing away on our computers. Then, they want to do something about it. When properly directed they inately try to improve the situation for others. God bless the parents who so raised this little angel. Unlike the insensitive & disrespectful people on the wide, well traveled road- they will see her again someday!

    July 26, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • oh

      My thoughts exactly. My heart breaks for the parents. As a mother of two I teared up reading this story. My kids, like most kids, are curious and naturally are somewhat charitable (my 6 year old always offers to give his toys to "kids who don't have any" when he grows out of or sick of playing with them)...but birthdays in particular are not usually a situation where any child is that selfless. No doubt great parenting and also a great soul. Rest in peace.

      July 26, 2011 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kris Wood

    I think the girl did the charity legit before her death. I also think it's abhorrent that the church is using her death as a fundraising booster. But then again, it's a church. Don't know what else I should have expected...

    July 26, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • James Andrews

      You think its abhorrent that the church is using the tragedy of her death to help promote what was her final wish?!?! Think about what you said.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Pedro

      The church was inspire by her actions and wishes – how do you not see that their fundraising efforts were to honor her? If I were in her family this would be such a huge comfort – every time I thought of her and wanted to cry about how she was taken from me I would also remember how her selflessness inspired such a huge outpouring of selflessness in others. I could not imagine a better gift from my church than this.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Err, Kris, the raised money isn't even going to her church. It's going to charity:water and from there to help the people who live without clean water. Yeah, real shame. How 'bout you try doing something for someone else.

      July 26, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • tomasie

      Okay, we get it. You don't like religion.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tanya

      100% of the donations are going to the charity, not the church. This is a church-oriented family, and they wanted to help pursue Rachel's wishes. Churches are not out there to get your money, wow! This little girl wanted to bring clean water to poor countries, and the only thing you can think of is thinking the church just wants money out of this!? DISRESPECTFUL!

      July 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I think you're confused.. 100% of the donations go to CHARITY WATER!! Please look up the organization, it really does great things. Maybe you will be moved to have your friends donate for your birthday 🙂

      July 27, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • ann west

      Yes, I agree .Churches Suck so Just find a Charity That you can trust and we'll all try to keep the less fortunate in mind.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      I don't blame you for thinking that...the Church has committed countless crimes throughout history, some you've probably been the victim of. For that I apologize. But please don't hold them against every church. Or Jesus. He was amazing, and the people and churches who do as He did are amazing too. What we believe is impacted by our personal experiences, so if you've never experienced a community of people who love strangers and whose actions prove it, please believe that they're out there.

      I, too, believe what I do based on my experiences...and from personal experience, all this church wanted was to help fulfill this little girl's wish – one that was truly her own – to raise $300 so that 15 people could have access to clean water for the first time. Well now over 22,000 people will get clean water...imagine the comfort that gives her family. My church won't see one cent of it. But believe that charity: water will send us video footage of all the water projects that money funded, just like they always do...

      July 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michelle*


    July 26, 2011 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. wilne

    The worlds needs more people like this girl and fewer greedy people; and while taking care of themselves (self-preservation) is important, I think there are limits. When CEOs are making millions and outsourcing jobs and automating and cutting costs while workers toil for pittance here and abroad, it makes me wonder why there is no shame.

    July 26, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. vikingslost

    May God Bless Your Soul, Rachel Beckwith. My deepest condolences go out to this young girl's family and friends during this trying time.

    July 26, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Madelyn R

      Why would God bless her soul? He obviously didn't give a crap when she was on the highway.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kato1

    What an amazing little girl. In the mercenary world we live in, for someone so young to ask something like this, it really gives one hope for future generations. And I completely agree that if you raise a child properly, they will do things like this – it's not really entirely similar, but I know a young lady who, despite being young and wanting presents, asked for all of her friends to donate money in her name for dog rescues, rather than giving her gifts. They're awesome little kids.

    My condolences to the family.. rest in peace, little angel.

    July 26, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lewis Norton

    If only certain so-called adults (especially in Washington DC!) had the selfless maturity of this child, perhaps we would not be in such a mess today. Rest in peace, Rachel, and God help us all!

    July 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gah

    "not everyone's that mature at 90"
    such a true statement- there are people who have SO MUCH and just ask for more, more, more instead of giving to others in need. i'm not saying this girl had everything, but instead of birthday gifts she wanted charitable donations- a very noble soul that puts to shame a lot of the people we call "celebrities"

    July 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
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