Birthday boy turns philanthropist

July 2, 2013

Spencer Blumenthal, 8, and his sisters, Meskie (left) and Etta, enjoy squirting clean water from a garden hose in the Blumenthal backyard.  Contributed

Spencer Blumenthal, 8, and his sisters, Meskie (left) and Etta, enjoy squirting clean water from a garden hose in the Blumenthal backyard. Contributed

Spencer Blumenthal, 8-year-old second-grader at Sunny Hills Elementary School, turned his birthday party into a charitable event, raising more than $700 for charity: water. The nonprofit organization brings clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Spencer “primed the pump” by contributing $40 of his own savings and started the money flowing by asking his friends to make contributions rather than bring presents to his April 1 birthday party.

Spencer’s parents, Cami and Ryan, helped him set up an online link for donations. The campaign closed June 21.

What would cause a boy of 8 years to turn his back on birthday presents in exchange for contributions to a water charity? It began when his parents adopted Etta, an infant from Ethiopia. Shortly after the adoption, they discovered Etta had a sister, Meskie, in an orphanage in Ethiopia and adopted her also.

Meskie came home just shy of her 5th birthday, Cami said.

“What’s been amazing is that she still had a great memory of her time in Ethiopia and could share these stories,” she added. “Where Etta was so much younger as a toddler, Meskie could fill in the gaps for her sister.”

“She had to walk a long way to the nearest river or stream to get water and the water was dirty and had disease in it,” Spencer said of Meskie.

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Late Rachel Beckwith’s campaign for clean water lives on

July 31, 2012

The deluge of donations inspired by a local girl means clean water is available to 60,000 people in remote parts of Africa.

Rachel Beckwith

In July 2011, 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith died after a rush-hour pileup along Interstate 90. In the aftermath, a cause she championed in life — clean water projects in developing nations — garnered international attention and more than $1 million in donations.

Donations to the New York-based nonprofit organization charity: water reached $1.2 million in the months after Rachel died. Donations came in increments large and small from about 30,000 people around the globe.

Rachel’s mother, Samantha Paul, pledged to travel to Africa to see the results and, on July 23, Paul joined Rachel’s grandparents and representatives from charity: water in Ethiopia. The journey commemorated a year since Rachel’s campaign.

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Milestones from the year 2011 reflect changes

December 27, 2011

Renewal defined the year, as the community paused after a population boom and economic bust — and positioned Issaquah for the decades ahead.

Milestones from the last 12 months offer contrasts.

Leaders opened showcases for “green” design and concluded a milestone effort to preserve Tiger Mountain forestland. Tragedy left indelible impressions, too, as a gunman menaced downtown pedestrians on a September morning and turned a school campus into a crime scene.

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Off the Press

September 13, 2011

In New York or here, the lesson is to love

Greg Farrar Press photographer

Pundits and writers this week have been trying to come up with some profound things to say about the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country. What are the lessons? What has changed?

Here is a lesson I feel I have learned and would like to share, not only from the last 10 years since 9/11, but from my last 15 years of being blessed with this career at The Issaquah Press:

Love in the now. Love often. Don’t leave people guessing, make sure they know you love them.

One of our obituaries this week is for Lillian Tucker, 81, of Issaquah. “Auntie Lil” or “Mrs. Santa Claus” as I knew her, was one of the first people I met here in 1996. She was famous for her holiday nutcracker collection and her love of the Seattle Mariners. She worked a number of years in the deli at the Front Street Market, serving and smiling for her customers.

There have been so many people, some I was able to know and some I wasn’t.

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Donations to honor late Issaquah girl surpass $1 million

August 16, 2011

Rachel Beckwith

Charity donations in honor of Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old Issaquah girl fatally injured in a pileup last month, surpassed the $1 million mark Aug. 12, as the cause received another round of national attention.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, highlighted Rachel’s mission to raise funds for Charity:Water, a New York-based nonprofit organization spearheading water projects in developing nations.

Donations surged to more than $900,000 after Kristof’s column appeared Aug. 11 and continued upward.

Rachel turned 9 in June and, in lieu of birthday gifts, asked friends and family members to donate to Charity:Water. The girl set a $300 goal, but came up $80 short.

“In the midst of this grim summer, my faith in humanity has been restored by the saga of Rachel Beckwith,” Kristof wrote. “She could teach my generation a great deal about maturity and unselfishness — even though she’s just 9 years old, or was when she died on July 23.”

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Off the Press

August 16, 2011

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.

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Charity donations to honor late Issaquah girl surpass $1 million

August 12, 2011

UPDATED — 9:25 a.m. Aug. 12, 2011

Charity donations in honor of Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old Issaquah girl fatally injured in a pileup last month, surpassed the $1 million mark Friday, as the cause received another round of national attention.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, highlighted Rachel’s mission to raise funds for Charity:Water, a New York-based nonprofit organization spearheading water projects in developing nations.

Donations surged to more than $900,000 after Kristof’s column appeared Thursday and continued upward.

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Concerts keep late Issaquah girl’s charity wish alive

August 9, 2011

Local musicians from the Society of Emerging Artists will play a three-part music festival Aug. 12-14. Taking place at Daniels Recital Hall in Seattle, the performances will benefit Rachel Beckwith’s charity to bring clean water to African villagers.

Beckwith, 9, recently died from injuries she sustained in a 13-vehicle accident on Interstate 90. Prior to her June 12 birthday, Beckwith made it known that, instead of presents, her birthday wish was to raise money for Charity:Water. After her death, donations to Beckwith’s endeavor began to pour in.

“We chose this charity because the society emphasizes the power of youth,” said Erin Kim, director of press and media affairs for the society. “We thought it was a good way to emphasize the impact that young people have.”

The seed was sown for the Society of Emerging Artists when Korean-American violinist Kevin Lee was offered the baton during one of his eighth-grade orchestra classes. From that point on he knew music would be his life’s calling.

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Donations to charity honor late Issaquah girl

August 2, 2011

Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old Issaquah girl, continues to inspire people around the globe.

In the days after Rachel died July 23 from injuries sustained in a Bellevue crash, donations to a charity she championed surpassed $700,000 from more than 20,000 people.

Inspired by a church fundraiser, Rachel asked in June, in lieu of birthday gifts, for donations to Charity:Water, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to people in developing nations. So far, the charity estimates almost 4,000 projects have provided clean water to more than 1.7 million people in 19 countries.

Charity:Water estimates each dollar invested in improved water access and sanitation yields, on average, $12 in economic returns.

How to help

  • Rachel Beckwith asked people to donate to Charity:Water as a birthday gift. Now, people can donate as a tribute to the late 9-year-girl. Donate at the organization’s website, www.mycharitywater.org/ p/campaign?campaign_id=16396.
  • Or, donate to help Rachel’s family pay medical expenses. Donate at the Band of Brothers Northwest website, www.bobnw.org.

Rachel’s $300 came up short, but in the days after the July 20 crash, leaders at EastLake Community Church asked Charity:Water to reactivate Rachel’s donation website.

Donations started to pour in, and the flow increased to a deluge as local news outlets carried the story. “NBC Nightly News” featured a segment about Rachel’s fundraiser July 29 and donations soared beyond $700,000.

Rachel’s mother Samantha Paul survived the Bellevue crash. In a message posted on Rachel’s donation website July 25, she offered thanks to donors.

“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,” she wrote. “Thank you for your generosity! I know Rachel is smiling!”

Troopers seek witnesses to crash

Washington State Patrol investigators put out a call last week for witnesses to the deadly pileup along Interstate 90 in Bellevue.

The crash fatally injured a 9-year-old Issaquah girl and injured numerous other motorists, including a handful of Issaquah residents. Investigators asked for witnesses to call Detective Greg Wilcoxson at 360-805-1195 or Detective Jeff Maijala at 401-7742.

Just before 8 a.m. July 20, as traffic slowed due to congestion near the Interstate 405 interchange at 133rd Avenue Southeast, a tractor-trailer jackknifed into a logging truck in the adjacent lane, authorities said. The impact dislodged the rear axle of the logging truck and sent the piece hurtling into traffic.

Washington State Patrol seeks witnesses to Bellevue pileup

July 27, 2011

NEW — 6 p.m. July 27, 2011

Washington State Patrol investigators have put out a call for witnesses to the deadly July 20 pileup along Interstate 90 in Bellevue.

The crash left a 9-year-old Issaquah girl dead and injured numerous other motorists, including a handful of Issaquah residents. Investigators asked for witnesses to call Detective Greg Wilcoxson at 360-805-1195 or Detective Jeff Maijala at 401-7742.

Just before 8 a.m. July 20, as traffic slowed due to congestion near the Interstate 405 interchange at 133rd Avenue Southeast, authorities said a tractor-trailer jackknifed into a logging truck in the adjacent lane. The impact dislodged the rear axle of the logging truck and sent the piece hurtling into traffic.

Rachel Beckwith, 9, sustained severe head and spinal injuries in the crash and died July 23.

In the days after she died, thousands of donors sought to honor her generous spirit.

Last month, Rachel had been inspired by a church fundraiser for Charity:Water, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to people in developing nations.

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