Canoe dice run to benefit Make-A-Wish

A group of Make-A-Wish supporters headed up by St. Marys residents Nancy O'Vell and Leah Leuschel is planning to hold their first annual canoe dice run on Saturday, June 11. The event is slated to begin at Lazy River Canoe Rental along Main Street in Ridgway and will end in Portland Mills. Registration will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the last dice rolls will take place at 5 p.m. sharp. There is a small registration fee. O'Vell explained that the idea to hold a canoe dice run "came out of the blue" when she and her husband, Roger, attended a recent canoe race in Emporium. "We thought, 'boy that would be something that was fun,' and then a friend of ours said, 'you ought to make it into a canoe dice run,' so we decided to give it a try," O'Vell said. In addition to the beginning and end of the event, there will be two stops along the way where individuals will have the opportunity to roll dice. "I think a lot of people stop along the river anyway and pack a cooler with something to munch on and kind of pull off and take a break a little bit," Leuschel said.Leuschel added that Tim McClain from Lazy River Canoe Rental provided assistance by helping the group select the best places to have those stops. He will also be offering deals on canoe and kayak rentals for the event for individuals who do not have their own equipment. To guarantee a canoe or kayak rental, reservations must be made by contacting Lazy River Canoe Rental by May 28 at 814-389-2732. The rental fee also includes transport back to Ridgway at the end of the event, and O'Vell noted that McClain will also bring individuals who have their own canoe or kayak back for a small fee. O'Vell also stressed that it is particularly important for individuals to reserve a canoe or kayak by May 28 if they plan on attending the event. "[McClain] would like them by then because he is taking 20 canoes out of his fleet for us, but if it ends up that he needs more he'd like to have a little bit of notice just to make sure that he has enough canoes out," O'Vell said. Individuals can still decide to participate in the event at the last minute; however, if they did not pre-register, there is no guarantee that a canoe or kayak will be available for their use. Life jackets must also be worn by event participants, and individuals who rent a canoe or kayak will receive one with their rental. "I think at any point in time you have to have a life jacket on. That's just the state law for being on a river," O'Vell said. Based on the response they have gotten so far, O'Vell and Leuschel remarked that it appears as though there are a lot of people who are interested in the event. "It's something different," O'Vell said. "There's really never been a canoe dice run that we know of. I'm sure there have been them, but as far we know we've never heard of one."O'Vell and Leuschel have been involved with raising funds for Make-A-Wish for 15 years, and noted that they have always raised at least enough money to provide a wish for one child. According to O'Vell, the cost of a wish typically averages around $3,500. "That's our goal every year. Of course, we'd like to surpass that," O'Vell said. She added that the group believes Make-A-Wish, which provides special experiences for children with life-threatening medical conditions, is a good cause and tries to support the organization in any way possible.