Off the Press

August 16, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

In final fundraiser, girl inspires deluge to charity

The mission is about water and the response — outpouring, actually — came as a deluge.

Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old local girl injured in a pileup along Interstate 90 late last month, continues to inspire people around the globe, almost a month after she succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash.

Fortunately, the terrible accident along the interstate does not define Rachel’s legacy.

In life, Rachel asked people to donate to Charity:Water, a New York-based nonprofit organization formed to complete drinking water projects in some of the poorest nations on the planet.

In death, Rachel created a legacy rooted in her generosity.

In the days after the July 20 accident, family and other members at EastLake Community Church requested for Charity:Water to reactivate Rachel’s fundraising website.

See, a month before the accident, Rachel hoped to raise $300 for the nonprofit organization to create a source of clean drinking water in developing nations. Rather than birthday presents, she asked people to donate to the charity.

In the end, she raised $220 — a laudable amount, but not quite the goal she had hoped for.

In the aftermath of the accident, donors soon outpaced the initial $300 goal and, as more and more people learned about the mission, the total reached milestone after milestone. Then, less than a month after Rachel died at Harborview Medical Center, the figure reached $1 million.

The cause, buoyed by segments on CBS and NBC newscasts, plus article after article in regional and national newspapers, inspired people across the United States, but also around the globe. The message spread to the far corners of social media sites, too.

Many people donated to Charity:Water in $9 increments — a nod to the birthday Rachel celebrated not long before the accident.

Rachel’s last mission is also in part a reflection of the surrounding community. People in Issaquah and nearby recognize and indeed cherish efforts to help the people most in need.

Issaquah residents, faith groups and nonprofit organizations raise dollars to travel to poor and war-torn nations to build schools, deliver medical supplies and even donate soccer uniforms.

The community is generous amid the holiday season, sure, but people also donate the bounty from summertime community gardens and stuff backpacks for students headed back to school.

The commitment to community and service is intrinsic. The numbers reflect the trend.

The volunteer rate in Greater Seattle is No. 4 among large cities, the federal Corporation for National & Community Service announced in a recent report. (The folks in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., claimed the top spot; Minnesota Nice is a documented phenomenon.)

Statewide, Washington ranked No. 11 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the percentage of residents engaged in volunteer activities. Translated into plain English, the figure means Evergreen State residents donated 218.9 million hours of service last year.

The numbers show how impressive the community is en masse, but one person can enact lasting change, too.

Rachel showed how one person could launch a mission for good.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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