A Chance for Special Kids to Catch A Dream

News-Star (Monroe, LA daily)
By Glynn Harris
August 25, 2002

It was a break Kay and I needed. On the spur of the moment, we hopped in the car and drove to one of our favorite destinations, Vicksburg, MS for a weekend get-away. While packing up to head home Sunday morning, there was a program on TV I don’t customarily get to watch since I am usually on my way to Sunday School when it airs. Mossy Oak’s “Hunting the Country” was on and I watched as a youngster saw his dream of a lifetime come true. He shot his first wild turkey gobbler in front of the camera. It was hard to tell who was the most excited, the youngster, his dad or guide Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland. As the program continued, the host explained that this hunt was part of a relatively new program which allows youngsters with life-threatening illnesses to take part in an outdoor venture like as the one I witnessed. I jotted down the name of the organization that promoted the hunt and stuck it in my shirt pocket. I wanted to learn more about the Catch-A-Dream Foundation that made the dreams of a youngster with a serious illness become reality.

Back at home, I did an internet search and located a web site that explained the program. Here’s what I learned.

The program was the brain-child of the late Bruce Brady, famed Mississippi outdoor writer. In an article written by Ray Huntzicker, writer for the October 2001 Fur, Fin and Feather magazine, Brady’s son, Bruce Jr., talked about his father s passion for the outdoors and for getting youngsters involved. “Dad had an appreciation for the outdoors. He was a Christian and had a knack for seeing God’s hands in the outdoors. It was more than the catching or killing to him; it was the whole experience.

“It really charged his batteries to be in the outdoors while he was sick. When he found out the Make A Wish Foundation had quit doing outdoor dreams, he became the driving force of what is now Catch-A-Dream”, Brady said. At his death in February, 2000, the Bruce Brady Memorial Catch A Dream program was established to meet the challenge of providing these opportunities for seriously ill children. Although originally for Mississippi youngsters, the program has now gone nationwide. Catch-A-Dream accepts referrals from one of several potential referral sources:

1. The child
2. The child s parent(s) or legal guardian(s)
3. A medical professional treating the child
4. Concerned friends or relatives

Any child under the age of 18 with a life-threatening illness may be eligible for a wish. In all cases, the child s treating physician makes the final determination of whether the child is medically eligible to receive a wish and whether the child is able to participate in the wish. The child s treating physician (if applicable) makes the final determination of whether the child is medically eligible and able to participate in the wish. Also, the child must be a legal resident of the United States. After confirmation of the child s eligibility, Catch-A-Dream assigns a volunteer wish team to coordinate the wish-granting process. When a wish team first visits with a child, the volunteers begin by asking a simple question: “If you could have one outdoor wish, what would it be?” Usually, wishes are limited only by a child s imagination. Most wishes fall into one of four categories: “I want to go to…” “I want to meet…” or “I want to experience…” Once a child s wish is approved, the wish team sets out to make it come true. After talking with the child, Catch-A-Dream wish granters set out to create a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor wish experience for the child. Every effort is made to include the immediate family in the child s wish. The wish experience often touches dozens, and sometimes hundreds of people who either help coordinate or are directly involved in the wish. Generous donors and hundreds of individual volunteers and organizations make the wish experience possible.

Do you know a child with a life-threatening illness who would like to have the outdoor experience of a lifetime? Would you like to help make the wishes of such a child come true by helping sponsor a child? You can make a one-time or a recurring cash gift; you can pledge a specific amount monthly or annually; you can honor a loved one or friend with a gift or pledge in their name; you can pay tribute to a friend or loved one during their lifetime by making a gift or pledge in their honor. You can also donate non-cash resources such as equipment, services (trips, hunts, lodging, etc.) and other goods that can be used to make dreams come true. There are also corporate plans available as well as opportunities for clubs or organizations to become sponsors. To find out how you can help, write the Mississippi 4-H Foundation/Catch-A-Dream Fund, Box 9601 Mississippi State, MS 39762. For more information on the program, visit the organization’s website at www.catchadream.org.