Touchdowns and Dream Funds Optimism for Youth

MSU Extension Service
By Ms. Bonnie A. Coblentz
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BankFirst made a donation to the Catch-A-Dream Foundation every time the Mississippi State University Bulldogs scored touchdowns. BankFirst’s Jerry Wilson, left, presents a ceremonial check for $10,000 to Marty Brunson at the MSU-Arkansas game Nov. 20. Wilson is accompanied by his grandchildren, Mauri and Miller Wilson.

MISSISSIPPI STATE – A local bank turned Bulldog football games into significant events for young people with life-threatening conditions.

Macon-based BankFirst teamed up with the Mississippi State University athletic department to make a $10,000 donation to the Catch-A-Dream Foundation, which is affiliated with the MSU Extension Service. BankFirst made a donation each time the team scored touchdowns at home. The Bulldogs scored 28 home touchdowns this year on their way to an 8-4 football season and a bowl game appearance after Christmas.

The Catch-A-Dream Foundation provides dream hunting and fishing trips for young people facing life-threatening illnesses. Marty Brunson, Catch-A-Dream director, said each trip costs an average of $3,500, and since its inception in 2000, Catch-A-Dream has provided 338 of these trips to youth from across the United States and Canada.

“This donation and the benefits of it are a direct function of our presence at Mississippi State University,” Brunson said. “With the ‘Touchdowns and Dreams’ program, Catch-A-Dream certainly benefits financially, but so does MSU, as our friends at BankFirst have also made a major investment in the athletic marketing program.”

Steve Taylor is president of BankFirst’s Starkville locations. He became aware of the foundation a few years ago after serving with Brunson on a committee. He turned to Brunson when he was looking for someone to throw out the first pitch at an MSU baseball tournament the bank was sponsoring.

“I thought Marty would know of someone in Catch-A-Dream who would want to do it,” Taylor said. “They found a kid, and the child had a great time doing it. We saw how much it meant to the family.”

When the bank was approached for a football sponsorship this year, Taylor remembered the impact the sport opportunity had on the child in the Catch-A-Dream program.

“We wanted to work with Catch-A-Dream to come up with a program for football. They’re a local charity, and we’re a local bank,” Taylor said. “This partnership seemed to dovetail in with what we stand for.”

Taylor Harris, an account executive with Bulldog Sports Properties, arranged the sponsorship for the bank.

“For every touchdown the Bulldogs scored, BankFirst made a contribution to Catch-A-Dream,” Harris said. “It was a high-profile deal because touchdowns are the ultimate thing you want to do in football. We just tied them together.”

Brunson said the Catch-A-Dream Foundation was chartered in 2003 and is a national, charitable non-profit organization based at MSU that serves children age 18 and younger.

“Through these adventures and exposure to outdoors-minded people who care, the program instills in these children a message of encouragement at a time when they need to know that hope exists,” Brunson said.