Friends and Family – by Scott Neelley

neelley-familyIt is September, and our 13 year old son, Hunter is going half days to school as often as he possibly can, but has missed numerous days from appointments, chemo treatments and days of not feeling well.  It stresses him out trying to stay caught up, but he’s been doing great.  He had his first of two cycles of chemo on September 3rd and 10th.  He handles the first part of the cycle just fine, but the second one usually kicks his tail.

Let me back up for a few minutes.  Several months ago, our social worker at the hospital, Erin (she is awesome by the way), got us hooked up with Catch-A-Dream for a hunting & fishing trip for Hunter. We wrestled with whether or not we could do this trip for many reasons.  Our first priority was obviously Hunter’s health and if it would be safe for him to fly.  That would all come down to how his numbers were just before the trip.

Our concern with committing to the trip would be that there was a very real possibility that we would check his numbers the day before we leave and end up having to cancel the trip.  In true Hunter fashion, he didn’t want to take away from another family’s opportunity if he got sick after that second round of chemo which he is prone to do.  Anyway, after talking with Brian at Catch-A-Dream, we agreed to chance it and they booked the tickets anyway not knowing at the time what might happen. As the time approached, Hunter had his rough chemo on September 10 and the trip was scheduled for the 18th, right in between his chemo cycles.  Two days prior to our trip, Hunter developed a fever and his numbers were border-line and the trip looked to be in jeopardy.  The next morning, he woke up and his fever was gone, but he still needed a transfusion.  The blood transfusion worked wonders and Hunter was back to his usual self and the doctor cleared him for the trip.

hunter-neelleyThe next day we were off to Missouri for a trip of a lifetime and one we could never do on our own. At first, Robin and I did not know how restful this would be and if it would just cause more stress on all of us from missing school, work and just the day to day chaos of life.  We weren’t at the lodge more than 5 minutes and all of the stress just seemed to melt away and we were able to escape reality for a few days.I can’t say enough about the folks at Catch-A-Dream and Little Flat Creek Ranch. Every person was so genuine and treated us like family.  A special thank you to each and every person who made this trip so special.  There were two other boys there with their dads who have been through so much as well, so it was great getting to know them and spending time with folks who have similar struggles.

The owner of the Ranch, Bill, has a heart of gold and opens up his property to Catch-A-Dream for two weeks before hosting commercial hunting and fishing trips.  It was more than just a hunting and fishing trip though.  We enjoyed the fellowship and sitting around the campfire and dinner table and visiting with other Christian folks who all share the love of the outdoors.  The Catch-A-Dream’s vision statement is centered around the Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, which just happens to be Hunter’s life verse and the one on the Hunter’s HOPE logo.  “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

scott-zachOn top of everything they did for Hunter, they were equally giving to his brother, Zach, and made him feel as special as Hunter.  They recognize how much the brothers and sisters go through during these times as well and it was great to see Zach hauling in largemouth bass, catfish and bluegills with a smile on his face that was from ear to ear.  They even presented Zach with a plaque recognizing him for his efforts and support of his little brother.  Oh, and yes, Hunter got his trophy whitetail as well.

Robin and I were able to get some much needed rest as well and she enjoyed roaming the ranch and taking pictures of the wildlife, flowers, bugs, river and waterfalls.  All in all, a fantastic trip and one that Hunter called, “One of the best weeks of my life.”