Perhaps the clearest view of Rita Goehner’s legacy of love can be found through the double doors of her family’s country home. Inside, one can’t help but sense the endearment emanating from colorful works of art, framed pictures of Rita and her friends and multiple collages filled with memories.
In addition to keeping the memories of Rita alive with these keepsakes, the Goehner family has turned tragedy around in the form of a nonprofit charity called Rita’s Rainbows.
On July 23, 2008, Rita’s charity was approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit. Rita’s Rainbows vows that 100 percent of funds raised go directly to those in need. Their officers receive no compensation, enabling children to get maximum benefit from donations.
The impetus for their charity was the death of 16-year-old Goehner in a car accident in April 2006.
“My mom has really been the driving force behind this getting off the ground and being successful. We all pitch in but she really has done an amazing job of getting a lot done in a very short period of time,” Rita’s sister Sara Goehner said.
Aside from Rita’s loving and compassionate personality, her mother Cassy remembers the quirky mundane moments that made her daughter unique.
At Starbucks “she created a drink where all the boxes were checked. She never gave her real name either, because she joked she didn’t want to give them her soul,” Cassy said.
Like Goehner herself, Rita’s Rainbows is distinct and different in its approach to helping children. Thinking outside the box, creativity is a cornerstone of their charity. The organization keeps Goehner’s spirit alive by the type of donations they bestow.
A few weeks after Rita’s Rainbows was approved as a non-profit, Goehner’s grandmother died. The Goehner family requested that donations be made to Rita’s Rainbows in lieu of flowers, marking the start to Rita’s Rainbows. Here are a few examples of how the charity seeks to embody Goehner’s spirit in their work.
Goehner had an expressive imagination. In March 2009, rather than donating plain pillows to the Hospice Partners Bereavement, Rita’s Rainbows opted for pillows that transform into stuffed animals.
Goehner celebrated and cherished life. After her accident her parents contacted Photobucket, a photo sharing Web site, for her password. Her password was “liv4today.” Rita’s Rainbows has helped better the lives of those less fortunate through the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter. The charity has donated children’s cots and hosted a party to gather and donate new blankets, toys, games and arts and craft supplies.
“Rita’s Rainbows has gone over and beyond covering our homeless children’s basic needs. They continue to come back and say, ‘what else can we do to help?’” Shawn Ison, Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter Program Manager said.
Goehner was an avid artist. In the face of increasing school cutbacks families are being stretched even further to provide an arts education for their children. Rita’s Rainbows donated funds to help children in need with full and partial art camp scholarships at The Art Center.
“There are feel good moments that come unexpectedly in this kind of work. Moments that remind us why we provide the services that we do. Moments that reinforce our commitment to public service in the nonprofit sector,” executive director of the Art Center Karen Kile said. “Talking with Cassy Goehner about how Rita enjoyed coming to the Art Center for summer art camps and what her family is doing to help other children was one of those special moments.”