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Family fundraisers strive to make a difference

fundraisers by Deborah Stone
In 1993, Bothell residents Loni and John Gray changed their family's usual commercial holiday celebration to one of philanthropy. They wanted to instill in their two children the notion that giving feels good. Rather than gift giving to each other, the family chose to raise funds for a community cause, and that year 8-year-old Rachael Gray chose the whales of Puget Sound.
   Through benefit auction dinners, school drives, media involvement, and a matching donor, Key Bank, they raised several thousands of dollars which was donated to specific whale related agencies. Their endeavor was so successful, they decided to continue their fundraising efforts on an annual basis, each year choosing a different cause to support.
   The accidental and tragic death of John Gray the following Christmas was a blow to the family, and their "Making a Better Place Foundation" was put on hold as they grieved for their husband and father.
   This year, Rachael Gray, now 11, has decided to take up the fundraising gauntlet once again and continue the spirit of giving with the help of her mother, Loni. To honor the memory of her father, John Patrick Gray, who treasured books and was a voracious reader, she has chosen to promote literacy by bringing kids and books together. She has spearheaded a drive to collect new books and money to purchase new books.
   As a sixth grader at Canyon Creek Elementary, Rachael has enlisted the help of her classmates through speeches and posters about her cause. All the books and money received will be donated to the Seattle Times "Books for Kids" program, which will distribute the new books to "at risk" children.
   The mother-daughter team plan to make this an annual event, and their goals include creating a holiday time "Kidbooks Bookstore," where children can Christmas shop for a book of theirown. They hope to have other children staff the bookstore as "readers" to sit with younger children and read to them or help them select a book.
   "We want to put books into the hands of as many children as possible who might not otherwise afford them. Ownership of books can greatly impact the love of the written word and enhance reading skills," said Loni Gray. Their wish is for their Winter Festival fundraiser to grow each year and make a significant impact in the community.
   "I'm so proud of Rachael for following her heart on this. It was my husband's goal and mine to teach our kids that if something is important to them, they can make a difference in their world, with their own hands," Gray said.
   To receive donations for the purchase of new books, an account has been set up at Key Bank: #18301003139. Checks should be made payable to "Making a Better Place Foundation--Kidbooks." Donations of new books can be made at Canyon Creek Elementary in Bothell. For more information, call the Grays at 485-2098.