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Originally published July 25, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Page modified July 27, 2011 at 2:16 AM

Corrected version

$331,000 to charity: Thousands honor memory of 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith

Rachel Beckwith is getting her wish. As arrangements were being made for the 9-year-old Bellevue girl's organs to save other lives, her goal of raising $300 to help bring clean water to African villagers was met — more than 500 times over.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Update, 10:20 p.m. Tuesday: The number of donations on Rachel Beckwith's fundraising page has climbed to 7,971, amounting to more than $331,000.

Rachel Beckwith is getting her wish.

As arrangements were being made for the 9-year-old Bellevue girl's organs to save other lives, her goal of raising $300 to bring clean water to African villagers was met — more than 500 times over.

By Monday night, the fund had climbed over $160,000.

Rachel was fatally injured Wednesday morning in a 13-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90 in Bellevue. Over the weekend, she was taken off life support.

Last month, before her June 12 birthday, Rachel made it known that all she wanted was donations toward her $300 goal. A web page was created with "my charity: water" to take contributions. By her birthday, $220 had been raised, then the page was closed.

In the wake of Wednesday's accident Ryan Meeks, a pastor from her church, arranged for the web page to be revived.

The donations poured in.

On Monday, Rachel's mother, Samantha Paul, expressed her gratitude on the web page.

"I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter's dream and make it a reality," she wrote. "In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope."

Jeremy Johnson, assistant pastor of the Eastlake Church in Bothell, where Rachel was a member, was astonished.

"It's unreal. It's really going crazy right now," he said Monday.

Although the original fundraising effort may have been limited to Rachel's immediate social circle, it now has touched the lives of people who never met her. Individual donations — more than 3,100 and counting — have ranged into the thousands of dollars, with many donors posting biblical citations, and messages to Rachel and her family calling the 9-year-old an angel and inspiration.

Many of the donors were struck by the unusual generosity and selflessness of Rachel's birthday wish. Others wrote they hoped their children would learn from her example.

"Rachel ... Thank you for making me pause and remember what is important in this world. Rest in peace," wrote a donor listed as Michael Serth, who gave $25.

"I wish I could give more, but I'm only 8 years old, and this is my week's allowance. I hope it goes up to at least $1,000,000," wrote a donor, listed as Simon Kitchen, who gave $5.

Chris Black, another member of the Eastlake Church, has raised thousands of dollars in separate donations to cover expenses related to Rachel's memorial service and medical treatment.

Black is the co-founder of Band of Brothers Northwest, a Kirkland-based community-outreach organization. He called the response from people wanting to help "overwhelming."

Black never met Rachel, but he had seen her in church and knew her radiant smile.

Scott Harrison is the founder of "my charity: water", a nonprofit working in Africa to bring clean drinking water to people who need it. He used his own 34th and 35th birthdays as deadlines to raise money, Johnson said.

Rachel's mother had set up the donation page on the charity's website in May. Based on the charity's estimates, every $20 donated would provide one person with clean drinking water.

"I'm celebrating my birthday like never before," Rachel's page said. "I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday."

Meeks was in the Central African Republic touring my 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 still needed.

Donations can be made at www.mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=16396

Information from The Times archives was used in this report.

J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or jwogan@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally posted on July 25, 2011, was corrected on July 26, 2011. A previous version of this story misidentified Simon Kitchen, an 8-year-old who contributed his $5 weekly allowance to "mycharity: water" in memory of Rachel Beckwith.

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