Twenty-one years ago, a little boy named Danny — a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — wanted to catch a fish just like the one his dad had mounted on a wall at home.
A family friend asked businessman John Engquist if he could take Danny fishing on Engquist’s 1,400-acre property in Clinton, Louisiana. Danny got to go fishing with professional fishermen in bass boats and a special event called Fishin’ Galore was born.
The event has grown to 1,600 people — including 139 St. Jude patients and their families — this past May.
“It has grown consistently. You don’t have to be a patient to attend,” said Jo Ann Slaydon, executive director of the Dream Day Foundation, which funds and coordinates the event. “I have some patients in their 40s who still come. They wouldn’t miss it.”
Now married with children of his own, Danny brings his family to Fishin’ Galore each year.
Founded in 1996, the Dream Day Foundation has contributed more than $3.5 million to St. Jude.
Engquist, CEO and Director of H&E Equipment Services, Inc., is chairman emeritus of the foundation. His wife Marty serves as the current president.
The foundation also supports the St. Jude Dream Home® Giveaway campaign in Louisiana and other fundraising efforts for St. Jude, but Fishin’ Galore is the centerpiece of the foundation’s efforts. In addition to fishing, the all-day event offers archery, skeet-shooting, a petting zoo, face-painting and caricatures. Out-of-town visitors from Baton Rouge take a bus to the property, which is escorted by a motorcade courtesy of the Gulf Coast Police Motorcycle Team.
An army of more than 500 volunteers help make Fishin’ Galore possible, Slaydon said. “The volunteers are just passionate about this event and give of their time, talent and treasures constantly.”