Mill’s Youngest ‘Dream’ Child Reaches Another Odds-defying Milestone

In the News
Georgia-Pacific Monticello Operations

January 2016
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Chris Pena shared during Sunday morning conversation that his family lineage can trace back to Davy Crockett, a claim that comes as little surprise to anyone lucky enough to spend time with his outdoors-loving, sharp-shooting son Christopher.

For four days, he was our own little onsite “King of the Wild Frontier” and indisputable proof that, quite often, the biggest treasures come in small packages.

“He’s the youngest we ever had for a hunt, but he’s also the best shot we’ve ever had, too!” said Team Monticello’s Harold Griffith, who once again served as hunt master for our Catch-A-Dream child, Christopher Pena, during his visit to the mill that wrapped up Sunday.

Shortly after he and his family arrived from Richland, Mississippi, Christopher’s Thursday afternoon target practice established his sure-shooting ways. And he followed that, with Harold as his hands-on guide, by taking down an eight-point buck at 125 yards on Friday afternoon, and a rather sizable doe after lunch on Saturday. Those were the first two deer little Christopher had ever gotten in the field.

But it was what Christopher snagged without ever taking a shot that served as the highlight of the weekend, for the hearts of every person who encountered even briefly the affable, always bubbly, fun-loving boy were captured quite easily. It was, quite honestly, hard to be otherwise when watching Christopher realize his deer hunting dream with such a mile-wide smile, a boy who has spent much of his young life defying the odds.

“This is one of those special milestones many said we’d never have,” said Chris of his son, who battles challenges with his heart and other afflictions that have his very presence today labeled quite aptly as a miracle.

“Everyone here this weekend got to share in that milestone with us, and we’re so very grateful.”

Since 2002, Team Monticello has been sharing similar milestones with children facing life-threatening illnesses, partnering with Mississippi-based Catch-A-Dream to make those a reality through guided deer hunts and a weekend filled with fellowship. Employees involved with the event also know it as a weekend that gives back almost as much to the mill.

“You’ve given us a lot of joy, and a lot of hope,” Mill Manager Ken Li said to Christopher, his parents Kristi and Chris, and his brother Justin at Saturday’s celebration lunch program. “This is the kind of event that brings you back to the human side of what we do, of what we’re about. At the end of the day, it’s all about people.”

Catch-A-Dream’s Brian Chisholm echoed those thoughts. His job includes leading families on Catch-A-Dream hunts throughout the country, all supporting the organization’s mission to fulfill the dream hunt wishes of those staring down challenges no child should face.

He lauded the efforts of so many carrying the Team Monticello banner who helped make the hunt such a great success for the Pena family, such as Harold Griffith, Sheila McFadden and the Catfish Cooking team (who handled Saturday’s lunch), to name some but not all. He also noted how a hunt is measured by more than just the success in the field.

“The level of love and support that this mill and the people here represent is far greater than those whose main business is hosting these events,” Brian said. “It’s an experience that is extra special, and like no other in North America.

“As long as you’ll have us in Monticello, we’ll have a child and a family to bring here.”