Catch-A-Dream works its magic for young hunter

The Daily Leader
By Scott Tynes
January 2002
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The dream of a 14-year-old Newton County girl suffering from cancer became reality Saturday thanks to the cooperative efforts of Lawrence and Lincoln countians, the Mississippi State University Extension Service and a local corporation.

Ashley May, the daughter of Jeff and Teresa May of Conehatta, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, a form of leukemia, in March and has undergone intense chemotherapy treatments in the months since.

Her dream was to hunt white-tailed deer in the woods of Mississippi.

“I like to be outdoors hunting, fishing, riding four-wheelers, whatever,” she said, “Whatever I can do outdoors I like to do.”

Through the efforts of the late Bruce Brady’s Catch-A-Dream Foundation, the Georgia-Pacific Monticello mill, MSU extension service and local volunteers, not only was Ashley able to realize her dream, but she was able to bag two bucks in two days.

And not just any bucks — Ashley’s first kill was an eight-point buck at a range of 125-130 yards, and her second was a six-point at a range of about 100 yards. Both were killed with one shot.

“She’s quite a hunter,” said Bill Little, the G-P huntmaster who hunted alongside her and her father. “I know a lot of men who have hunted for a long time that couldn’t have done that.”

“I had the privilege of being right over Ashley’s shoulder when she shot (the eight-point). It was a great shot,” said Martin Brunson, the director for Catch-A-Dream with the extension service, who was filming the hunt for her.

The rifle Ashley brought for the hunt, a Remington 700 7mm-08, was bought by friends in her hometown and given to her on Christmas Day.

“The one I killed today was my first buck,” she said, admitting she had shot a doe last year.

Peggy Brady, who oversees Catch-A-Dream for her late husband, and Brunson coordinated the hunt for Ashley, Georgia-Pacific had previously notified the foundation that they would be pleased to sponsor a hunt on their property, known for its well-managed deer population. Brady and Brunson took them up on their offer.

Ashley’s family, which also includes sister Amy, 7, arrived Friday for a weekend hunt. They left for home today. While in Lawrence County, the Mays stayed at the Georgia-Pacific guest-house, a luxurious home on the property normally reserved for company VIPs. The corporation paid to have the deer processed and mounted.

Georgia-Pacific also treated the Mays to a Catfish Cooking Team special lunch Saturday. Ashley was presented several gifts, including a limited edition copy of Bruce Brady’s “Game Trails” from Peggy, a plaque for Catch-A-Dream making her a junior member of the foundation, and a gold necklace from G-P with a deer pendant.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t get a deer, and I didn’t want you to go home empty-handed,” joke Asa Hardison, chief executive officer of the Monticello Mill. “I have never been happier over anyone killing a deer than I am you,” he added seriously.

Hardison invited the family to hunt on the property whenever they wished and asked Ashley if she would be a guide on future Catch-A-Dream hunts.

“So often growing up we hear from our parents that we have our health, and we just let it go over our heads,” he said. “It truly is a blessing.”

Brunson said there is more to Catch-A-Dream than realizing those dream. It is also, he said, to show the children that there is much awaiting them when the time comes.

“Our purpose is to make children realize there is more to life than this body we live in,” he said. “Catch-A-Dream is a ministry even more than it is for children to complete a dream.”

Teresa May said she really appreciated the efforts of everyone involved in fulfilling her daughter’s dream.

“I know when she was first diagnosed we thought it was the end of the world, but it’s shown us a new world,” she said. “We appreciate all the angels God has sent our way, and all of you are definitely among them.”

Ashley had been involved in softball and played the trumpet in band before being diagnosed. She had finished a softball practice when she first noticed the symptoms.

“I thought I had done something to my back when I was lifting weights,” she said.

When she was taken to a doctor in Meridian feeling ill in late February, her mother said, he conducted some tests and referred them to University Medical Center in Jackson. A doctor there diagnosed her with cancer from a bone marrow test and sent her to St. Jude Hospital in Memphis in early March. She stayed at St. Jude until the end of April.

While in the hospital, Ashley kept up with her schoolwork and was even voted freshman homecoming maid by her classmates. She completed the year with all As, except one B in algebra.

She said it was tough to keep good grades after she returned from the hospital.

“Half the time I’m not there because I have to go for treatment,” she said.

Ashley said she was excited about her hunt here and looked forward to returning sometime in the future.