MATT LAUER, co-host:
We are back now at 8:11.
's been reporting about the terrible famine and drought in parts of
. It's a problem that could be remedied if enough people pitched in to help. Well, a nine-year-old
girl decided to do her part by forgoing birthday presents to
for a cause. Tragically, she died before her goal was fulfilled. But as
explains, that's when something remarkable happened.
LEE COWAN reporting:
Everyone who knew her said it was
's smile that was unforgettable. And yet for those she never met, it was her heart that mattered most. On her ninth birthday,
decided, instead of presents, she wanted donations, money for thirsty kids in faraway lands to get a clean drink of water.
Mr. SCOTT HARRISON:
We've been blown away by the wish of this
She raised $220. She vowed to do it again next year on her 10th birthday. But then tragedy struck. In July, a pile up on
claimed more than a dozen cars, and one life,
Family and friends
were inconsolable. The best memorial, they figured, was just to keep
water drive going. So they did, and then came the flood.
Mr. RON UPSHAW (Talk Radio Host):
All right, looking at
birthday wish on the charity:
Her story spread on talk radio, on
. And soon,
There were times where we were on air talking about it, where I'd just be hitting the refresh button on my browser and it would go up a thousand dollars at a time.
was one of them.
Ms. APRIL GULLY:
I just -- I get really emotional thinking about her passion and just that her life wasn't in vain.
Strangers have even donated to her family.
Her basic idea of just loving and giving, those two things are so simple. And in such a
it's really easy to get behind that.
set out to raise just a few hundred dollars. Her total is now over a million, enough to help more than 50,000 people get
for life. It's a record that stands not only for its size but for what it says, that in her death,
the rest of us
how to live. For TODAY, Lee Cowan, NBC News, Seattle.
, is with us now, along with
Harrison, the founder and CEO of charity:
water. Good morning to both of you. And
, my condolences on your loss.
Ms. SAMANTHA PAUL (Mother of Rachel Beckwith):
Tell me about
She was always so giving and so loving. Even at a pretty young age, she -- for her first haircut when she was five, she wanted to donate her hair to
Locks of Love
to make wigs for kids with cancer. And then after we did that, she wanted to do it again. So the next haircut, we did the same thing. But she was always going out of her way to think about other people and just an amazing
Yeah, she sounds like it. This accident happened only three weeks or so ago.
A very short time. She did not make it out of the hospital. How long after her death did you decide to carry on this wish?
It was actually before she passed. We decided to open up the campaign again and it just took off even before she passed.
What was your reaction to the response? I mean, this was a
that very few of these people ever knew, and yet they responded, they connected in some very emotional way.
You know, I'm still blown away by the response that we've gotten. I just -- I'm a loss for words, reading the comments and you know, hearing how people from
all over the world
are being touched by her and what she wanted to do for people.
, I mean, she fell, what $80 short of her wish that first time around and boy, has she exceeded that now. Let me just read a couple of comments.
, who sent in $20, "Your amazing story of selflessness has reached us down here in
is an inspiration around the world." Julie Erneck, $20, "It's currently the dry season in
and the need for
is great. Thank you for your generous spirit, the impact of your life and mission,
, $30, "Touched our hearts, tears are flowing. The kids contributed their money, my eight-year-old said soon there will be too much water in
." I mean, why do you think this is happening?
I think people are just overwhelmed by the unselfishness of this
. You know, no birthday, no gifts, no party, you know, she just, she cared about others, you know. Learning that kids didn't have
, something so basic, and wanting to do something about it. Not being paralyzed.
had a goal. She wanted $300, that's what she wanted to raise.
a million now. It's something like 3,000 times what she had hoped to raise.
So have you now set a new goal?
It changes daily, basically.
, I remember, I was up, you know, until about midnight waiting for 1,000 times her goal, at $299,000, I was like, I need to screen shot this and that seemed big. You know, 1,000 times her goal. And now, who knows?
, again, she sounded like a remarkable
'm so sorry for your loss.
But it's amazing that she lives on with this effort.
And we are going to make sure that our viewers understand this more and can get in touch with this because if you'd like to know more about
water, you can head to our
at today.com. Thanks both for being here. We're back in a moment right after this.