The inspiration for Wish I Could was a 5 yr. old boy named Toby Green, who had been diagnosed with lukemia. Ann Hale was a friend of the Green family and when she found out about Toby’s illness she contacted Dreams Come True of Denham Springs,LA to grant him a wish. After granting Toby’s wish, Dreams Come True came up to Dunn, LA and met with Ann to help her get the Wish I Could organization started. As far as we know, it still remains the only children’s wish granting organization in Louisiana, north of Baton Rouge. We believe (but we are not absolutely sure) that the organization was not incorporated until 1998, and the name was then changed from Wish I Could to Wish I Could of NELA Inc.
The first fundraiser was held at Ann Hale’s store in Dunn, LA. Members of the Dunn community donated baked beans, potato salad, and cake, and Ann provided bar-b-que chicken for the fund raiser. These bar-b-que dinners were sold out of Ann Hale’s store for $5.00 per plate with the volunteer help of the Dunn community. Most, but not all, of the volunteers were members of the Dunn Baptist Church and/or relatives of the Green family. Now the organization handles the concessions at the Rayville Farm Auction and holds an annual Marengo Swamp Ride. We believe that between 1984-1985 was the year we were given the concessions at the Farm Auction. In 1985 Leonard Tullus started the Marengo Swamp Ride. The attendance at the first ride was 150 bikes at $5.00 per bike. Over the years this has increased to an average of 3600 bikes with a $20.00 pre-registration fee or $25.00 pay at the gate fee. In that time the mud ride has become a nationally known event. There have been at least 17 states represented at our ride.
At one point, Wish I Could of NELA was moved to Columbia, LA and remained there for three years. It was then was moved to the office it occupies now in Rayville, LA. During that time many records were lost but some of the original members, who are still an active part of the organization, believe that the child that recieved the first wish was a 7-8 yr. old girl with lukemia named Christal(last name unknown).
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Do to the success of the Marengo Swamp Ride and the fact that we are a non-profit charitable organization we are also able to donate funds to other non-profit organizations like St. Jude, Baptist Childrens Home, Shriners Hospital of Shreveport, Barak Shriners Transportation Department of Monroe, Medcamp of Louisiana, and MDA (Muscular Distrophy Association).
We always welcome new members and/or volunteers to our organization. Our open meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm. Membership dues are only $12.00 per year. We are located at 711 Louisa St. in Rayville, LA. We would love to see you there.
We hope we have clearly answered all of your questions. Please feel free to email, call or write to us at any time if you have any further questions or know of a child between the ages of 3 and 18 with a life threatening illness who might like to be granted a wish.
The only things we require from the family is a diagnosis and prognosis from the child’s doctor. Upon approval from Dr. Dan Lafluer (the doctor who reviews all of Wish I Could’s cases) the board will then vote on granting the wish and members will conduct an interview with the child to determine “the child’s wish.”
To date, no child with a life threatening illness has ever been turned down. It is our great pleasure to provide children, in the face of these difficult struggles, a reason to smile. We would like to thank you for your interest in Wish I Could of NELA Inc. and God Bless.