A legacy of love: Rachel raised more money than Lambert, Bieber

A legacy of love: Rachel raised more money than Lambert, Bieber
SEATTLE -- Rachel Beckwith has grown to be bigger than Adam Lambert, even Justin Bieber.

The girl whose birthday wish sparked a worldwide fundraising campaign for charity:water is now credited with the biggest individual fundraising campaign on record. With more than $1 million in donations, Rachel has surpassed Justin Bieber, who raised $47,000 in a fundraising effort, and first runner-up Adam Lambert, who raised some $330,000, said charity: water founder Scott Harrison.

"No one's near her. I don't think anyone will catch her for a while," Harrison said.

For her 9th birthday, Rachel asked friends and family to donate money to bring clean water to an African village.

"I found out that millions of people don't live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn't have access to clean, safe water so I'm celebrating my birthday like never before," she wrote. "I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday."

Rachel was close to meeting her goal of raising $300 when she died last month after a car accident. But strangers all over the world continued to contribute in her honor, to both her family's and the charity's delight.

"I mean, people from Africa have been giving a few dollars and just acknowledging Rachel's heart for their continent, people from Brazil, people from Thailand, from Europe," Harrison said. "Of course, it all started with a Seattle church community. It's pretty amazing."

"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," Rachel's mother, Samantha Paul, wrote. "I know Rachel is smiling!"

Harrison said Paul visited the charity's office last week, and saw, first-hand, the flood of support pouring into the office.

"We walked into the office together, and at that moment, about 150 letters had arrived in the mail with notes and $9 checks for Rachel. And it was pretty special to open the mail with her," he said. "Someone had taped a dime donation to a note saying, 'This dime is blessed, and may it bless your daughter's wish.'"

Rachel's fundraising campaign is set to close at the end of the month, at which time the charity and the family will together make a final decision on the allocation of funds.

"It looks like most, if not all, will probably go to Ethiopia," Harrison said. "There's been a big drought in the region, as everybody knows."

But that won't be the end of Rachel's family's involvement in the project.

"Rachel's mom is going to come with us to some of the completed projects on the one-year anniversary of Rachel's tragic passing, and be able to celebrate that with thousands of people that Rachel helped," Harrison said. "I'm very much looking forward to that."

Harrison used his own 34th and 35th birthdays to raise money to bring clean drinking water to Africa. The group estimates each $20 donation is enough to provide one person with clean drinking water for 20 years.

In the past five years, the New York-based charity has raised $48 million and supported 3,962 water projects in Africa, Asia and Central America.