For many kids, birthdays are a time to ‘stock up’. The list starts early, with great expectations of gaming systems, the latest toy or new outfits. But for 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith, her birthday meant a chance to give to other people.
“On June 12th 2011, I'm turning 9,” Rachel said on her charity webpage. 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. I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts.”
Rachel became interested in Charity:Water after Eastlake Community Church, where she attended with her family, did a fundraiser for the organization last year. She vowed to make that a part of her birthday wish. As June 12, 2011 approached, her mother reminded her of her pledge and Rachel jumped on it with excitement.
Rachel was $80 short of her $300 goal by her birthday.
Shortly after that day, her mother, sister and Rachel were driving on Interstate 90 when a semi-truck jackknifed into a logging truck. The trailer skidded into the car carrying the family. Rachel, the only person critically injured in the multi-car collision, was removed from life support the following weekend.
Rachel’s friends and neighbors remembered the precocious 9-year-old’s charity drive and began to pass the word. But they were not alone. Facebook pages and Twitter also spread the word. Actress Alyssa Milano and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck are among the many who tweeted about the charity drive, now simply known as Rachel’s Cause. Donations have jumped to over ¾ million dollars. Many donations are $9, in honor of the young girl.
The original $300 goal would have provided water for 15 people. Rachel’s Cause multiplied that by more than 200, giving fresh drinking water to over 36,000. Rachel’s Cause has become the charity’s largest fundraiser.
Scott Harrison, founder of Charity:Water put that into perspective on The Early Show, where he and Rachel’s mother appeared on August 1, 2011. It is the same number of people it would take to fill Madison Square Gardens twice, he said in an interview.
A speaker at her memorial said of Rachel, “She has the ability to reach from the grave and still impact our lives on a daily basis.”
While nothing can replace her child, Samantha Paul, Rachel’s mother expressed awe and appreciation to those who support her child’s cause. “I can’t even express how proud I am … of all the choices she made throughout her life. I’m just glad that everyone else can in the Rachel experience.”
Donors send not only contributions to the charity, but well wishes for Rachel’s family.
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Matthew 10:14,” one donor quoted, making a donation of $90. Another said, “Rachel, you are an inspiration for us all. Thank you for blessing our lives with the gift of your smile and spirit. You and your family are in my prayers.”
It’s an amazing thing for a child to do – inspire a nation to give to strangers. But kids are amazing people, full of hopes and dreams that have a life and energy of their own. In Rachel’s case, her dream became her legacy.