Bellevue girl dies after crash; her spirit of giving inspires others
Rachel Beckwith, 9, died Saturday after a tragic car accident earlier in the week. A website she had used to raise money for a charity was inundated with donations in her name.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Rachel Beckwith, the 9-year-old Bellevue girl critically injured Wednesday in a horrific I-90 pile up, died Saturday of her injuries.
Last month, in lieu of presents for her 9th birthday, Rachel had raised $220 for a charity providing water to villages in Africa. As she was taken off life support at Harborview Medical Center, sympathy for the little girl and her family since the accident had already poured a further $22,000-plus into the fund.
Wednesday morning, her mother, Samantha Paul, was traveling westbound in a car on I-90 with Rachel and younger sister Sienna in the back when a semitrailer jackknifed into a logging truck. Logs crashed down onto traffic, more than a dozen vehicles were caught in the pileup, and the semi rear-ended Paul's car.
Rachel was the only person critically injured.
Jeremy Johnson, a pastor at Eastlake Church in Bothell, where the family attends services, said doctors told the parents they couldn't save Rachel because of her severe spinal and head injuries.
Johnson said Rachel had been inspired by a church fundraiser last year that raised money for "charity:water," a nonprofit working in Africa to bring clean drinking water to people. She wanted to follow the lead of the founder of the charity, Scott Harrison, who had used his own 34th and 35th birthdays as deadlines to raise money.
In May, on the charity's website, her mother set up a donation page with a statement from Rachel that set a goal to raise $300 by her June 12th birthday.
Her idea was that, since the charity estimates every $20 donated provides one person with clean water, she could help 15 kids if she met her goal.
"I'm celebrating my birthday like never before," Rachel's statement said. "I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday."
She missed her target by $80, and Johnson said she was already planning to raise more next year.
The lead pastor of Eastlake Church, Ryan Meeks, was in the Central African Republic touring charity:water projects when news reached him of the accident. He called Harrison on Friday, who then reactivated Rachel's fundraising page and donated the $80 she needed to reach her goal.
After that, donations poured in. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a member of the Bothell church, tweeted about Rachel's fundraising effort.
By the time she died Saturday afternoon, her site had raised more than $22,400 and was still climbing.
Johnson said $5,000 is enough to provide a well to an African village.
"Four villages will have wells because Rachel had a passion," he said.
Donations can be made at www.mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=16396
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or email@example.com
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