Teams take to their rafts to raise money for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
July 29, 2021MEREDITH – The rafts were back on Meredith Bay and teams from across the state returned for 24 hours on the lake or 10 hours in a virtual space for the 11th annual Rafting for Wishes, raising more than $285,000 and counting.
After a year off as a physical event because of the pandemic, the annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire returned to Hesky Park and Meredith Bay from Friday night through Saturday night.
As in years past a series of rafts were put in the water and different teams had representatives on the rafts for 24 hours. Some teams took part virtually as well for a 10-hour event starting on Saturday morning.
The floats returned to the water for the first time in two years after last year's event went entirely virtual because of the pandemic. Festivities kicked off around 6 p.m. on Friday with opening ceremonies.
"Because of you during the toughest year we were still able to bring over 80 wishes to life," said organizer Nikki Lyons Lahey during the opening ceremony. "Thank you for helping us bring hope to kids who need it most."
She also credited all the volunteers and committee members who have helped so much.
"They have truly been the love and the glue that holds this together," she said.
This year's goal was set at $250,000. By the beginning of the event, they had raised around $200,000. By the day after the event, they raised more than $285,000.
Last year Lyons Lahey said there was a point when they didn't know if they would have a Rafting for Wishes event. They decided to have a virtual event where teams would do the rafting from different locations. The event raised around $225,000 and seven teams alone raised enough money to make one wish come true.
"We are thrilled to share that despite this being one of the hardest years we've had in 35 years as a chapter we were still able to bring over 80 wishes to life," Lyons Lahey said after this year's Rafting. "Something we are truly proud of and an accomplishment that would not have been possible without all of our passionate and dedicated volunteers and supporters."
She said they had to delay some wishes that involved travel, but they've been able to start booking some travel wishes recently.
"The dollars raised this weekend will bring hope and happiness to so many families throughout New Hampshire!" Lyons Lahey said.
Lyons Lahey said for this year's event they wanted to follow all the pandemic guidelines. She said they are grateful for the state that things are in right now.
"It feels really good; it feels good to see so many people," Lyons Lahey said.
This year they allowed teams to go virtual in a 10-hour event that started Saturday morning.
One of the special guests at the opening ceremonies was Madelyn, a 4-year-old from Greenland who had her wish granted. Maddie wished for a Princess Lake House and she her family got to stay in a house on Winnisquam and have a nice lakeside vacation.
"It's amazing how much Make-A-Wish does for their children," said Maddie's mom Amanda Patterson.
Her dad, Tyler Eidell, said he was overwhelmed by how much Make-A-Wish has done for Maddie, who is battling interstitial lung disease.
"She's had it so rough for so long," Eidell said. "To see what everybody's done for her is heartwarming."
Patterson said Make-A-Wish also takes care of siblings and has been great for Maddie's older sister Kayleigh.
As the teams floated on the rafts, many fun activities went on in Hesky Park including a cornhole tournament, movies in the park, fireworks, Saturday morning exercises, and many more.
Rafting for Wishes 2021 ended with closing ceremonies on Saturday night.
After the event Lyons Lahey said the event went amazing and the weather was ideal.
"We couldn't have done it without the incredible support of the Lakes Region and especially the town of Meredith!" Lyons Lahey said. "Our in person and remote teams rallied yesterday. We surpassed our best ever money raised of the $260,000 from 2019 with 100 less participants. We've never seen more passionate participants."