Perspectives – by Dr. Marty Brunson, CEO

Reel Worthwhile

“Catch-A-Dream never sleeps.” That’s a quip often heard by our staff and volunteers, but seldom by the general public. I often make the comment in the context of our “inner circles” to help remind all of us, including me, that we are involved in something of great importance, and that we have an equally great responsibility to be accountable and responsive.

We also talk about something that authors Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles call “The Spirit of the Squirrel,” their term for a concept called “Worthwhile Work” – Work that makes a difference not only in your own life, but also in the lives of others.” As Blanchard explains, squirrels stay busy doing what squirrels do; they gather nuts, eat a few, and bury the rest for a later time. Funny thing about those buried nuts, though, is that the squirrels never retrieve most of them! And some of those buried nuts germinate and sprout new trees – oaks, pecans, hickories, walnuts, beeches, you name it – new forests are born because squirrels stay busy! In fact, Blanchard says that the Spirit of the Squirrel (Worthwhile Work) actually fulfills God’s plan for the forest.

At Catch-A-Dream, we believe this concept applies equally to people; that is, as we demonstrate the Spirit of the Squirrel by doing worthwhile work (which makes a difference not only in our lives, but in the lives of other people) we are fulfilling God’s plan for OTHER people (the “forest.”) Thus, “Catch-A-Dream never sleeps” because we are, truly, involved in “Worthwhile Work” making a difference in our own little patch of forest.

henderson-island-huntI coined the “never sleep” phrase because the lives of the people we know, those who support us, and those we serve, don’t necessarily operate on a time clock schedule. One place where that is abundantly evident is the call logs on our telephones; we get a lot of calls and they are not always within the 8-5 timeframe. Regardless of the time or the day, we consider
them all important. Often a particular call is etched in my memory not solely for the content of the conversation, but for the timing, or the setting in which I found myself when the call came in.

One of those memorable calls occurred about dark on Sunday, November 16, 2014 as I was driving north on US Highway 45 passing through Egypt, MS. I had left home an hour earlier and was making good time toward my destination in west Tennessee for a couple days of muzzle-loading for whitetails with a good friend. Yes, a long awaited couple days OFF to re-charge my own batteries;  yes, Sunday night, off-hours and office closed; yes, not scheduled back in the office until Thursday but, alas … Catch-A-Dream never sleeps, right?! And how so ever important that call turned out to be.

“My name is Chase Koestler. We know each other from a few years back when I was a guide at Tara Wildlife; I’m now the property manager at a place called Henderson Island, which you may know as ‘Willow Point,’ ” the young man said. “Yes, Chase I remember you. How can I help?”The words he relayed next set in motion an amazing series of events, leading to a highly remarkable and significant climax in late January 2015. “The owners of the island asked me to contact you to see if Catch-A-Dream would allow us to provide a hunt for a child. This is something our leadership has been talking about for a year or two now, but this week-end something happened to make us realize we should have called you sooner.”

After a brief, poignant pause, Chase continued, “We lost one of our members this week-end, and we’d like to host an annual Catch-A-Dream hunt in his memory. Would you be willing to speak with one of the owners about this possibility? He’ll be available to speak with you after the funeral tomorrow.”

What I did not yet know is that Friday afternoon, November 14, Johnny Johnson, President of Johnson Construction in Brandon, MS, a prominent businessman, highly regarded and successful off-shore tournament fisherman, devoted husband, father, and “Papaw,” and a stanchion founding member of the Henderson Island Hunting Club, left camp with bow in hand, headed to a favorite climbing tree for an afternoon vigil that would never occur. He did not return to camp, and a couple hours after dark Chase and Dr. Elliott Nipper, Johnny’s good friend and a co-owner of

the Island, found Johnny with bow in hand and climbing stand still strapped on his back, the victim of an apparent heart attack at age 58.Elliott and I talked many times over the next few weeks, and laid a plan for what would be the first Johnny Johnson Memorial Hunt for Catch-A-Dream. This would be our first experience with the Henderson Island group, so there was much for them and for us to learn about each other. But this particular hunt was clearly destined to occur. Brian Chisholm in our office worked hard to identify the “right fit” child for this location, and soon John Robert “JR” Irby from Neshoba County, MS was headed to Henderson Island. The timing was perfect for our friends from Drury Outdoors to capture the entire adventure on camera, and the hunt will air in Summer 2015 on their show Natural Born.

It quickly became clear that this group had caught what we call “The Vision” and had pulled out all stops to make this “very special hunt in memory of a very special man” not just successful, but truly unforgettable. You’ll have to wait for the episode to air to get the enthralling “details” of the hunt and adventure, which in itself was “out da box!” but for now there is a bigger picture message.

You see, Johnny’s lovely and gracious wife, Melanie, shared that Johnny’s nickname was “Worthless,” and that his renowned offshore boat was named “Reel Worthless.”From what I’ve learned, Johnny was anything BUT the personification of his nickname. His Worthwhile Work (and Play) impacted many people in his 58 years. He left amazing work, fishing, and hunting legacies, all of which are now honored through the annual hunt at Henderson Island. I’m told Johnny would have reveled in the opportunity to interact with JR and his family, and that he would have been “in his element.” But, in a very real way, he WAS there, and he will continue to impact lives through future hunts. I suspect Johnny would likely chuckle at the thought, but if he were still with us, I’d be compelled to suggest that he re-name that boat to “Reel Worthwhile” because he, and his friends at Henderson Island, truly have demonstrated the Spirit of the Squirrel in a mighty way.