By Cyndi Sellers
Three little girls from Slagle (near Leesville) who attend Hicks High School turned a traumatic experience in to a work of love for others in need at Christmas.
Lilly, Raylyn, and Maddy Wellman, ages 8, 5, and 4, felt the impact of Hurricane Laura they sat in the eyewall of a still-Category 3 storm for 45 minutes. Their grandmother, Michelle Price who keeps them often, lost part of her roof. She said the girls were distressed by their first really bad storm, and she wanted to take their minds off their own troubles by showing them a video from Cameron Parish, where she owns property and has many friends.
Seeing a little boy walking where his house used to be inspired the girls to try to do something to help the children of lower Cameron Parish. After calling friends from Grand Chenier, she considered and rejected a toy drive in favor of gift cards. She and the girls brainstormer how to raise money, and Lilly suggested making and selling candles, because “Nana” had supplies for that already.
They started making candles in Michelle’s kitchen, experimenting with colors and scents. She posted a picture of the kitchen filled with candles and wax, and the response was almost overwhelming. People started bringing Mason jars to her house, and UPS was delivering candle wax every other day, she said. Folks dropped by the house with cash donations of up to $100. Since they are part of a rodeo family, the girls’ mom took the candles to barrel racing competitions to sell.
When the dust, or wax, had settled, the three girls had raised $5000. Last week they and their grandmother delivered twenty $250 gift cards for children and families in need at South Cameron High School, hoping to make the holidays a little brighter for kids like themselves.
“My grandmother taught me not to dwell on what’s happening to you,” Michelle said, “but to look up, look around, and see what you can do for someone else. There is always someone worse off. We might have only half a roof, but others have nothing.”
After making the delivery at SCHS, the family toured the Creole/Grand Chenier area to see the devastation firsthand. It was a sobering experience. Seeing mattresses and personal belongings piled on the side of the road really hit hard, she said. Seeing it with a child’s eyes, the girls were especially affected by the damaged playground at Grand Chenier Park.
“They don’t even have a place to play!” they said. “We need to get out and clean up and help them.” It seems that more candles may be in the future, Michelle said.
The story of the three little girls raising $5000 for other kids drew the interest of a reporter from Alexandria. While giving an interview, Michelle stressed that the story not be about the girls, but about the continuing need in Cameron Parish. The Grand Chenier area still does not have potable water or electricity, she told them. She believes most people that far north don’t have any idea what lower Cameron Parish looks like or how hard it is to recover from such a powerful storm and up to 20-foot storm surge.
Her message to the Alexandria readers was, “On Christmas Eve we are all going to bed with a roof over our heads, even if it does have a blue tarp, and in our own beds. But 80-90 percent of the people in lower Cameron Parish don’t have houses.” Her message to Cameron Parish is, “We will not let you be forgotten this time. If these three ‘Cowgirls that Care’ were able to do this, what could we as adults do collectively.” Cameron Parish has not heard the last from this caring family