Call For Action Investigation: A Van for Jesse

A "Wishes are Possible" video shows the nonprofit's CEO, Bill Jennings with Jesse Gill and his mother, Jenny Wood.

"I don't see any reason why we should not be able to raise $32,000," Jennings says. "Understand this. This is. Right now, you are, for a lack of a better word, you are my mission. You are my mission."

With those words, Jennings launched a campaign to help Colorado Springs teen, Jesse Gill, in December of 2009. Jesse suffers from a rare congenital disorder called Arthrogryposis.

His mother, Jenny, says his joints are fixed. They don't move, restricting him to a special reclining wheelchair.

"We've been told he has the worst case in all the U.S. His hips do not bend. His joints are fixed, so it's very hard for us to find equipment at all," Jenny said.

That's why Jenny and Jesse were so excited that the non-profit wanted to raise $32,000 to buy him a van which could accommodate his motorized wheelchair.

Jesse says, "I am taken care of all the time by my mother, and she's a great mom, but I would like some independence."

It's very difficult for Jenny to get Jesse into the SUV they currently own. She has just inches to spare. So she was thrilled to jump right into fundraising efforts for "Wishes are Possible."

She and Jesse were invited to a bowling fundraiser in the Denver area, where they told their story.

Then, five months later, a motorcycle group held an event for Jesse.

No events were held that fall. In fact, Jenny got an e-mail from Jennings in November 2010, apologizing and blaming the economy for a lack of funds. He also said his group had just gotten its official charity status, and he was hopeful they'd be able to raise more money that way.

A few weeks later, Wishes are Possible made changes to Jesse's home, paying $700 in material and asking a contractor to volunteer his services. They widened doorways so Jesse could get around more easily.

Jesse and Jenny say they were grateful for the work and were really looking forward to getting the van.

In February 2011, a fundraiser for Jesse was held at Mr. Biggs in Colorado Springs. In August, another one was held at a Sky Sox game.

Jenny says she and Jesse were there on the baseball field as a plea was made.

The sold out crowd was asked to send an immediate text to donate $1 to Jesse's van and to buy $20 raffle tickets for a chance to win a shiny red Corvette.

Jenny was told that the first 700 tickets sold would cover the cost of the '77 Corvette. That's $14,000 worth.

Anything beyond that would go towards Jesse's van.

A local radio station even starting running commercials to sell raffle tickets and videos were posted on You Tube.

Jenny says she was told a raffle would be held in September or October. One of Jesse's former teachers, Lauren Lehman, bought two tickets.

"We thought the car was going to be given away in October, and it wasn't given away in October," Lehman said. "I heard they were still selling tickets and I thought that was odd."

Odd indeed when you consider the Colorado secretary of state's office closely regulates raffles, requiring nonprofits to meet certain rules.

Jenny became worried and contacted Call for Action, asking 11 News to check it out.

We discovered there are several rules for raffling a car that weren't followed at all.

Colorado nonprofits have to obtain the vehicle title first, before the raffle is held. They also have to keep all the money in a separate bank account and even get a special license from the state. Lastly, they have to clearly state on the tickets themselves when and where the raffle will take place.

These tickets don't have that.

So what about that Corvette?

KKTV 11 News found it sitting in a lot for sale at a Colorado Springs car dealership.

11 News decided to pay Bill Jennings a visit.

We started by asking how much was raised on Jesse's behalf.

Jennings responded, "Specifically for Jesse's van? If you compare what it cost to put on an event and the money that came into the event, you know if you compare them... I would say zero."

Jennings says he and his volunteers have great intentions, truly hoping to grant wishes and make peoples' lives better.

To date, despite all the good deeds his nonprofit has done, he says they've operated in the red. He says almost every wish has been granted from money out of his own pocket.

Jennings says he even offered to give Jenny a check for money raised from the other events, but Jenny told 11 News she couldn't accept it.

When asked, "Who won the red Corvette?"

Jennings answered, "I have no idea. You see, I didn't put that contest on."

"But you're the founder and the CEO of this nonprofit, right?" we asked.

Jennings answered, "I understand. Yes, I am the founder and CEO of the nonprofit, and I have a public relations girl who was working with a company in Colorado Springs."

Jennings directed us to "Wishes are Possible" volunteer Tiffany Membery and her boyfriend, Brian Cannady.

We got them on the phone, and they said they'd recently been contacted by the Colorado secretary of state's office and were in the process of working with Springs Automotive Group to give the money back.

KKTV tried several times to set up a meeting with the dealership's owner, Guy Alldredge.

Alldredge did promise to e-mail a response to our questions about the raffle, but so far we hasn't received it.

He did say that 131 raffle tickets were sold, totaling $2,620, but the car never was raffled off because there was never enough money raised.

Alldredge says he never knew the nonprofit had to get the title from him ahead of time. Cannady says he also didn't realize he'd done anything wrong.

KKTV 11 News did contact the Colorado secretary of state's office.

A spokesman says no charges will be filed because the dealership is working to return everyone's money and it all appears to be there.

So far, most of the raffle funds have been returned, but Springs Auto Group is having trouble finding 25 people. In the meantime, they're holding onto the money and hoping the 25 people will call or come in and claim it.

Jesse never did get a minivan to accommodate his motorized wheelchair. He and his mother Jenny are very disappointed, and they're still hoping that someday he'll get the freedom he's looking for.

Jennings says he's disappointed and wishes things could have turned out differently. He says he's launched a new business in an attempt to make some money for his charity.

The best advice before giving to any nonprofit is to do your research, and make sure it's worthy of your dollars.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Someone who knows Jesse Location: Colorado on Feb 27, 2012 at 02:14 PM
    So one issues is consent to post Jesse's likeness. If I remember correctly, Jesse just turned 18 making him the person that needs to consent to his likeness being used. Has anyone explored this aspect? Even if the mother did sign something (I have no knowledge of this) or the teacher did...at this point, doesn't Jesse need to consent...I'm thinking based on this story he does not seem to.
  • by Anonymous Location: Colorado on Feb 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
    Wow, not to be over dramatic, but this reminds me of Enron and Qwest. 2 sides sure. Lots of money moving around between people so its hard to track. Lots of people saying other people are in charge of that decision. Person in charge claiming no knowledge of the legalities of his own organization. Everyone making decisions without knowledge of what's legal...sounded over dramatic at first, but thinking about it there are MANY similarities.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 27, 2012 at 01:42 PM in reply to Anonymous
      I missed one big similarity...the people running the organization say they are acting for the good of the people who are being scammed...the leaders of Enron and Qwest both protested they were trying to make money for their shareholders...just like this!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 28, 2012 at 04:17 AM in reply to Anonymous
      Wishes are possible makes the money hard to track starting with the fact they didn't give donors opportunity to designate which "wish" their money is for... plus they've said actual cash/money is used for videos and website upkeep while "wish granting" depends on - and waits for- the generosity of local tradesmen or busuness who happen to decide to gift time and services to wish recipients....
  • by Carl on Feb 27, 2012 at 11:05 AM
    Well, if you say so then good luck, but I was talking with my mom who is a para and she said she wouldn't spend a dime of here own money on this case. Those two other guys seemed pretty sure they had wavers in hand. If you think that they really forged things call the cops. Then you can just file after.
  • by Carl on Feb 27, 2012 at 10:08 AM
    My only point is that it may be that all the CYA was not done after the fact. If they have the wavers that they clame they do a few pages down, then you don't want to use your own money suing. Let's say you manage to get to trial. You have 1 person who had a wish that didn't go well and they have waivers to use the images. If that was the only wish that went bad, it would be one story opposite a couple dozen testimonies and stamens of happy turnouts. It's not criminal to set a goal and fail at a charity, it's just bad for PR and moral. I'm not saying you don't have a right to be mad, I'm just saying everyone who is mad thinks their case is the best case. I wouldn't advise going up against these people on your own dime is all. This can be a bad situation without being criminal and fraud and all that. I just read all this stuff so I have a fresh perspective. In the end, it's your money. I think you should hold on to it and not blow it on what may be a lost cause.
    • reply
      by Huh? on Feb 27, 2012 at 10:40 AM in reply to Carl
      You'll note there is also question as to the possibility of forgery of these waivers, not to mention they may using the waiver supplied by the teacher who originally submitted Jesse to WISH... Not to mention the monther demanded remval in writing 6 months ago because she suspected foul play. Given all the other lies and misrepresentations by the non-profit group that involve companies and orgs like springs auto group, the mayors top 100 club, colorado skysox, etc, I really doubt the family will have to spend one more dime trying to escape the clutches of wishes are possible....
  • by Anonymous on Feb 27, 2012 at 09:47 AM
    They posted new Information to the Wishesarepossible.org website: it is ABSURD! As if they EVER intended to buy a new van MUCH BUY SOMEONE A HOUSE!!! " → New Cars – New Homes – due to the extent of liability of both parties (Wishes Are Possible, Inc. and the recipient of the Wish) these wishes are no longer available." These guys are STILL showing videos of jesse and asking for cash donations on his behalf. Exploitation, Fraud and total and complete misrepresenation of business structure, operations and purpose. Not to mention they don't offer ANYONE any privacy protection... in fact, the more info they get about you, the stronger their cooperating businesses become, and the longer 'wish recipients' have to wait for their dreams to come true.
    • reply
      by huh? on Feb 27, 2012 at 09:51 AM in reply to
      clearly they are spending time and resources working to "CYA", and simply don't give a rats "A" about the people they are using to promote their non-profit.
  • by Carl on Feb 27, 2012 at 08:53 AM
    I read a couple comments on here I think the day or the day after this story first posted. Lots of new material since then. I went on that site last night to see if I could replicate buying a ticket. I think that box is just a glorified answering service. The person is likely in India! I wasn't actually able to get a ticket. They just tried to get my contact information like the others before me. That's why I think it's an answering service. Anyway, I wanted to say that if someone does try for a lawer, I would find one pro-bono or one willing to take a piece of a settlement. If they really have a Hold-Harmless document and waivers for the shotty carpentry video, there isn't much of anywhere to go with a suite as far as I can tell. You can find a lawyer to file a suite for almost any reason if you will pay cash to them. The people who will only do it for a part of the payout only if they think they can win or settle. It'd be a shame to pay upfront and be out money and still not win because all the paperwork is correctly filed with the charity.
  • by Tami Location: Pueblo on Feb 26, 2012 at 08:58 PM
    I am a friend of Jenny's. She has devoted every breathing moment to the care of Jesse- all the while never asking for anything. She has done a phenomenal job raising Jesse. He is such an outgoing, smart kid whose smile and charm melts your heart. For someone to take advantage of them by offering to take care of them is the lowest of the low. Why, why, why has there been no recourse of this "Wish" organization to date? How much more wrong can this organization be? Is there an attorney willing to help? I "wish" Mr. Jennings would get hit in his back pocket. He and his so-called wish grantor should be behind bars, to say the least.
  • by SD on Feb 26, 2012 at 06:56 PM
    FYI, Bill also owns the business that provides the "chat box" on the site. I'm doubtful he will post here again though he said he'd never give up the fight, guess that was until he realized that no one was buying his story anymore.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 26, 2012 at 06:18 PM
    There are a lot of details about Wish, Jennings and non-profit regs in here - please take some time to review the the more relevant things like illegal raffle sales, blatant lies, exploitation, irresponsibility, total callousness to the most heartbreaking of human suffering...
  • by Yea! on Feb 26, 2012 at 05:42 PM
    Ok Jeremy & Bill - what do have to say for yourselves now?! So you aren't putting on the raffle? You 'never sold one ticket' eh? Huh....Then why is the wishes are possible sitestaff chat box (which is a biz owned and operated by Bill Jennings) STILL SELLING RAFFLE TICKETS for Jesse? And why are they still accetipting donations on his behalf? I guess it's pretty obvious why all of the WISH voices have been silent for more than 24 hours..... Guilty as charged... You should be familiar with all that Jermey... With your law enforcement experience and all... You have crossed beyond anything that offers a 'reasonable doubt'.
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