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The first team of rafters volunteering in the Make-A-Wish New Hampshire 44-hour rafting relay in Meredith Bay board the covered rafts on Wednesday afternoon. (LARISSA MULKERN)

Making kids' dreams come true

Wishing upon the water


MEREDITH — The life rafts floating in Meredith Bay for the past day are helping to grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

"Rafting for Wishes," in its third year, is a fund-raising event orchestrated by Jason Tremblay, director of philanthropy for Make-A- Wish New Hampshire, and Jason Perry, director of sales and marketing for Manchester's Verizon Wireless Arena.

The two are spending 44 hours on a raft, as will 15-member teams that will relay to make sure each of the nine rafts in the bay is occupied from Wednesday at 6 p.m., when the event began, through this afternoon at 2.

Each team member was asked to raise $300, and even before the teams set foot on the raft, Tremblay announced they had met their $44,000 goal — $1,000 for each of the state's "Wish Kids."

The number of hours and the fundraising goal increases each year. Last year's event raised $36,000 — $1,000 for each of the 36 hours on the water. This year adds another eight-hour shift.

"Jason and I will stay out there for 44 hours as a tribute to each of the 44 kids awaiting their wish to be granted," said Tremblay.

How do they prepare for spending 44 hours in a raft?

"We bring as little as possible," he said. Items they bring include a towel, sunglasses, bathing suit, cell phones, food and a toilet facility. The weather forecast is pretty good, with a chance of pop-up showers, and participants are allowed to take a swim to cool off if it gets too hot as long as the raft remains occupied.

"It's a mental thing more than anything," added Perry. "Knowing that the money we're raising is going towards granting wishes and bringing the kids joy and happiness is worth it," he said.

Sponsors hosted a festive kick-off event Wednesday in Meredith's Hesky Park, which many of the state's "Wish Kids" attended with their families.

During the event, supporters in Hesky Park are providing entertainment, including showing "Despicable Me" on a portable screen, games and food in the park, live music and a D.J., and a fireworks display. A remote-controlled aerial camera will document everything from above.

Teams include members of the New Hampshire State Police, Nashua Fire Department, The Common Man restaurants, Mill Falls at the Lake, Merrimack Police Department, The Fitness Edge and The Floating Logs.

"We were contacted by both Jasons to see if we wanted to be involved since we have a strong presence in Meredith," said Jason Lyon, chief executive officer of The Common Man. "We ... thought it was an incredible cause. ... We thought it was something we really wanted to be part of."

In addition to raising funds from sponsors for its rafting team, Lyon said all eight Common Man restaurants have offered a special for the past three weeks where $1 from the sale of two special dishes was donated to Make-A-Wish. The specials end tonight.

Nashua firefighters raised $6,000 this year. Firefighters Tony Petrain, John Frazier and Rich Meyer went above and beyond their call of duty by dressing up like princesses at the request of their "Wish Kid," Hanna Vigeant.

Before he headed out to the rafts, Tremblay thanked supporters.

"They see their future moving beyond their illness and see a future that is bright," he said. "These are the kids. These are the lives you are changing."

lmulkern@newstote.org

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