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Submitted by Dina Coates Koebler

8 yr old girl swims 2+ miles to raise $80k for orphanage in Haiti best friend Ruthie was adopted from

Raegan Koebler’s best friend in the whole world is Ruthie Hill. Ruthie was adopted as an infant from a Haitian orphanage in Ruuska Village operated through “Reach Out to Haiti”. When the earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, Ruthie was devastated. Raegan wanted to do something to make Ruthie feel better and to help other Haitian children like Ruthie. Rae decided to swim over 2 miles for pledges with the goal of raising $3,000.00. Raegan took her mother’s cell phone and started calling all her contacts. She got permission to swim at the local park district pool – during the middle of a school day. Their third-grade teacher, Amanda Willey, rallied their 3rd-grade glass and got a school bus filled with Ruthie and Raegan’s classmates, their lunches and posters of support they made. Raegan said a prayer, thanked her supporters and jumped into the pool to begin her quest.

Ruthie walked up and down the pool deck providing encouragement with Phil and Angie Owens, Rae’s swim coaches. 1 hour and 17 minutes later, after swimming nonstop, Raegan climbed out of the pool and had raised over $8,500 dollars to help rebuild the orphanage. The two third graders shared their story with anyone who would listen and eventually an anonymous donor in Florida offered to match all monies raised for Reach Out to Haiti up to $100,000. Four local businesses raised $10,000 at a golf outing to donate to their cause, along with hundreds of strangers who read or heard about Raegan and Ruthie’s quest to rebuild the orphanage. The most touching donation came from Logan Correctional Facility when an inmate wrote to Raegan and said he wishes he had always made good choices like Raegan and he donated $5 of his prison pay to the “cause”.

The orphanage is rebuilt with the $80,000 in donations the girls raised and is better than before. Raegan has also raised half the money necessary to build “The Rae of Sunshine Schoolhouse”. Ruthie and Raegan plan on making mission trips to the school in their teenage years and hope to teach there as adults. The power of friendship – even in little girls – changes the world. For these two girls – their bond and commitment are providing a safe home to other children, maybe other best friends, in Ruuska Village, Haiti.