Young girl turns tragedy into charity, leaves a legacy of more than $1 million

It’s an unexpected gift from an unexpected source.

Rachel Beckwith, the 9-year-old who was killed in a traffic pileup on I-90 July 20, has bequeathed an essential gift — water – to those that need it the most.

The young girl had attended a lecture at her church given by charity:water CEO Scott Harrison. It prompted Rachel to forego birthday presents that year and instead she asked people to donate money to the charity. You can read her statement about her decision here.

At the time of her death, she was $80 shy of reaching her $300 goal. That's when the public stepped up to honor the young humanitarian.

The organization currently has received more than $1 million in donations, making Rachel by far the single-largest individual fundraiser in the charity’s 4 ½ yr history. (American Idol star Adam Lambert is the second largest fundraiser, who donated $323,000 to the organization.)

Rachel's donation page will be closed September 30. At that time, charity:water.org and Rachel's mom, Samantha Beckwith, will determine where to direct the money. 

Because it is such a large amount of money, Harrison expects it will go to multiple projects. The projects should get underway by the end of 2011 and each generally takes 12-14 months to complete. 

Once a project is completed, charity:water sends reporting teams to the project site to take photographs and gather GPS data to document the project’s location and completion. 

In September, the non-profit is also launching a new feature on their website, "Dollars to Projects," which will collate that data with Google Earth maps and each donor’s individual gift — no matter how small — to show exactly where the  money went.

Next summer, on the anniversary of Rachel's death, her mother will travel to Africa with the people from charity:water to see what the donations made in Rachel’s name have done for people in need.

Charity:water.org says 100 percent of all donations go to water projects, due to a series of private donors who pay the non-profit's administrative costs, including credit card fees, in order to allow every cent of donated funds to be allocated to providing clean water.

In their 4 ½ yr history, charitywater.org reports they have raised $42 million and are projecting donations of $25 million in 2011, thanks to Rachel and other supporters like actor Will Smith and former Seattle Seahawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.