Her Heart Was Bigger Than This Room
Aug 17, 2011

3 minute read


 It is a tragic story, but one that touches and inspires. When she was 5, Rachel Beckwith found out about the nonprofit Locks of Love, which collects donated hair and provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged kids suffering from long-term medical hair loss of any kind. So she cut her hair and donated it, then waited for it to grow back and did it again. Then, for her 9th birthday, instead of getting presents for her, she asked loved ones to donate to charity:water, a nonprofit bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. That was in June.

“On June 12th 2011, I'm turning 9. 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 on her charity:water campaign page.

Her goal was $300, enough to give 15 children access to clean water, but she only got to $220 by June 12th. A month later, tragedy struck, when her family’s car was involved in her 13-car traffic accident. The rest survived, but Rachel was critically injured. That’s when word spread, and contributions started pouring in. Most of them in $9 increments, the totals kept increasing, but unfortunately, after fighting for her life, Rachel succumbed. The donations to charity:water keep flowing in, and with over a million dollars coming in, more than 50,000 children will have access to clean water.

Her mother plans to visit the work her daughter’s intentions have enabled. “It’ll be overwhelming to see Rachel’s wells,” she said, “to see what my 9-year-old daughter has done for people all over the world, to meet the people she has touched.”

"Rachel was a very special girl. I love you very much Rachel and I miss you," her father said. "Her heart was bigger than this room. She always gave whatever she had and would continue to give more."

Ultimately, Rachel’s is a story that reconnects us to the purity of a child -- a place where empathy moves us to action, and compassionate action flows effortlessly.


Some heartfelt words from around the web, as people reflect on this selfless everyday hero:

“It’s not often that you find an individual with a heart as big as Rachel Beckwith’s. It’s even less likely for this person to be only 9 years old and trying to save the world.” -- Emma Murphy -->

“It makes the eyes mist to think what if — what if 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith survived the car wreck to see what her generous and inspiring birthday wish produced: more than $1 million in donations to bring clean water to African villages. [...] If only Rachel survived. If only she knew how deeply she moved others who were touched by her giant heart.” -- Seattle Times Editorial -->

“What has been so inspiring about Rachel is that she has taught the adults,” said Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water. “Adults are humbled by the unselfishness of this little girl.” -->

“Youth activism has a long history, but this ethos of public service is on the ascendant today — and today’s kids don’t just protest against injustices, as my contemporaries did, but many are also remarkable problem-solvers. [...] Rachel Beckwith, R.I.P., and may our generation learn from yours.” -- Nicholas Kristof, NY Times -->


Reprinted with permission.

4 Past Reflections