Good Samaritan’s kindness — and rent money — repaid

EVERETT — Peggy Ray was plenty busy at the Starbucks coffee shop she manages in Everett on Tuesday, but she did find time to greet and hug more than a half dozen Everett firefighters.

They stopped by to pass along a handful of checks — and a community’s gratitude.

Ray, 39, is the Marysville soccer mom who provided medical aid to an elderly Kirkland couple involved in a serious traffic accident on I-5 near Everett on Saturday. When she returned to her car, she realized she’d left the doors unlocked and $900 in rent money she had just withdrawn from her bank was stolen.

Ray’s story has made national headlines. Donations have poured in.

“It’s all just a little overwhelming,” Ray said Tuesday.

Today, she is scheduled to go to Seattle for a satellite interview with CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper for a future broadcast.

People have been touched well beyond Snohomish County.

Alexis Garmon, 16, was doing her pre-calculus homework at her home near Louisville, Ky., when she heard a TV news account about the Washington woman losing her rent money while helping others.

“She didn’t have to do that,” Garmon said. “When she said she would be giving to charities, that’s when I said, ‘We have to donate.’”

Peggy and her husband, Nathan, have two causes in mind to donate much of the proceeds — Rhema’s Reality for Childhood Cancer Research and the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology.

Rhema Butler, an Olympia-area girl who enjoyed soccer and cheerleading, died of cancer in 2011. She was 14. Ray once had coached her in cheerleading and she helped raise money for the girl’s family after the diagnosis.

The Green Cross Academy of Traumatology — not to be confused with the medical marijuana delivery service — is a humanitarian assistance organization that helps people in crisis following traumatic events, such as the superstorm Sandy that ravaged the East Coast earlier this month.

Nathan Ray said his wife always has been one to quietly contribute her time and energy to help others. It’s a little hard to comprehend the outpouring of support now that she’s on the receiving end, he said.

“She has done so much over the years for individuals and organizations, and that’s one of the reasons that we are blown away by the response,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you give and receive with both hands.”

On Tuesday, Everett battalion chief Matt Keller presented Peggy Ray with local donations, including $750 from Everett firefighters, that the fire department has collected since Sunday. He did not count the total, but it was well more than $900 she lost.

Keller was on Saturday’s emergency call along I-5, which he described as “a high-speed, high-energy wreck” that resulted in serious injuries to the driver, 74, and passenger, 69. Both are expected to recover.

Keller knows what Ray faced when she ran down the embankment to offer aid.

“I think she did some good work,” he said. “We wanted to make sure she was made whole.”

Lynnwood police officer Bill Koonce also took up a collection, gathering $350 in donations from fellow officers, bicycling friends and relatives.

“There are a lot of things that are bad out there,” Koonce said. “It’s kind of pleasant when there is something you can do that does some good.”

On Monday, a Seattle television station gave Ray a check for nearly $3,800 it collected in donations.

Nathan Ray said it has been a remarkable stretch since Saturday afternoon.

“Then, we were wondering where are we going to be able to borrow the money to pay our rent,” he said. “We weren’t looking for any of this. There is a lot of good that has come out of all this.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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