Inside Tracks – Volunteering by Dr. Marty Brunson

A common misconception we encounter on a daily basis is the role of volunteers on child trips.  We receive offers on almost a daily basis from very sincere and well-meaning people around the country to “help out on a child hunt or fishing trip.”  The offers include cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, cleaning game, taking pictures, running errands, and many other things that are assumed to be parts of a child experience.  These are not only among the most frequent “offers” we receive, but also generally the hardest to decline, because they spring from the heart and are sincere attempts to serve and to become involved.

The truth, however, is that in almost every instance, the outfitters, guides and charter captains with whom we partner to make these experiences a reality already have their cadre of support in place, and this may include both employees as well as volunteers.  Consequently, though there are certainly exceptions, there is generally little opportunity for the local community to be directly involved in delivering the experience for the child and family except for those who may be enlisted in the trip planning process to accomplish specific aspects of the plan.

Since we work closely with the outfitters, guides and charters to plan every aspect of the trip and the experience, we are able to design highly personalized and typically very intimate experiences for these children and families.  In our last issue, we described in detail the role of the Volunteer Host, and the importance of the Host to our intrinsic mission.  Generally, the Host is the only volunteer involved at the trip delivery level outside the infrastructure provided by the local outfitter, charter, etc. and the role of the Host is one of the distinguishing and unique aspects of a Catch-A-Dream experience.

So, where does that leave those who discover Catch-A-Dream, are taken aback by the impact of the program on everyone involved, want to “give their time” or “energies” to our mission, but live far from our home office at Mississippi State University?  Certainly not “out in the cold!”

Perhaps the most significant fashion in which every interested supporter can make a substantive difference on our behalf is by sharing our story with any child or family that you may know who qualifies for consideration.  Our highest priority is to identify those candidate children and families that we might be able to serve.  They are the very reason that we exist!  Contrary to what seems to be popular perception, we don’t have hundreds or thousands of children waiting in line.  Though we know there are thousands of potential candidate children out there, only a few dozen actually submit applications to us each year.  We need YOUR help is identifying that NEXT child that we can serve.

Other ways to become involved include lending support to the increasingly prevalent local fund raising events that are springing up in many communities.  We have established  a “Friends of Catch-A-Dream” framework to embrace these grassroots efforts, and the local committees, civic groups and other entities that conduct these events can often use a helping hand.  At the very least, attending and supporting these activities is a real and tangible contribution.

Finally, our friends can help us ensure that greater numbers of people, companies and organizations learn about what we do and come to embrace what we have come to call “The Vision!”  Word of mouth and personal testimony is one of the most powerful marketing tools any organization or company can have!

by Dr. Marty Brunson, Executive Director