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Program enables youth to fulfill outdoor dreams
By Ashley Crawford
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Granting outdoor wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses was a dream Bruce Brady never saw materialize, but the program developed in his memory carries out his dreams.
Catch-A-Dream is a wish-granting program that was founded to memorialize Brady, a long-time resident of Brookhaven. The program grants once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experiences to children under the age of 18 who have life-threatening illnesses.
Brady was an accomplished outdoor writer and hunting enthusiast. Before his death in 2000, Brady was employed by Outdoor Life magazine as editor-at-large.
"Bruce was a fascinating person. He devoted himself to young people and introduced lots of children to the outdoors," said Peggy Brady, the widow of Bruce Brady.
Mississippi State University's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries conducts the Bruce Brady Memorial Catch-A-Dream program through the 4-H Field and Stream Program. It is a partnership between the MSU Extension Service, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, the Mississippi 4-H Club Foundation of Miss., Inc., and the Brady family.
Brady said the program was originally developed for Mississippi youth.
"It began to grow and grow," Brady said. "We realized we did not need to stifle its growth. With the help of MSU's Extension Service, the program just took off and became national."
Brady said the outdoors seemed to renew her husband's spirit as he fought a three-year battle with cancer.
"Even when Bruce was in the hospital, he would be planning outdoor trips," Brady said.
Marty Brunson, Catch-A-Dream program chairman and Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist, said the program gives children a unique opportunity to divert their minds from the many physical pressures they face.
"These children are given a reason to look at life differently," Brunson said. "Life is, indeed, priceless."
The program has fulfilled four dream adventures since its founding in 2000 and receives a steady flow of applicants wanting their own dream adventure.
Ashley May, a 14 year old from Conehatta, was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2001 and wished for a deer hunting trip.
"Her dream was to kill a buck big enough to go on the wall," Brunson said. "Well, she killed two bucks to go on the wall during her hunting trip."
The Georgia-Pacific Monticello mill hosted Ashley's hunting adventure in January and provided the hunting grounds, lodging for Ashley and her family in their VIP guest house and meals.
"Ashley continues to receive treatments in Memphis but remains in school," Brunson said. "She is a good student and very courageous."
The wishes go beyond deer season. Other wishes in the making involve turkey, elk and moose hunts as well as offshore and local fishing trips.
On Feb. 12, Catch-A-Dream granted a 9-year-old boy from Brandon his fishing trip wish.
"I received a call from the Children's Cancer Clinic in Jackson about a boy in critical condition, so we worked quickly to prepare his adventure," Brunson said.
A few days later, the young boy experienced his dream. Along with his cousin, the boy caught 205 fish and had dinner with his family and representatives from Catch-A-Dream.
"We gave him presents to remember the day by, and he had all of his favorite foods including a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake," Brunson said.
Brady and Brunson both described Catch-A-Dream as a blessing.
"We are able to minister to children battling different illnesses by granting their desires to be outdoors," Brunson said.
Many partners help make the dreams of "youth with precious little time to waste" become reality.
On May 6 and 7, country singer Tracy Byrd is hosting a celebrity golf tournament benefitting Catch-A-Dream at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point. Individuals and corporate sponsors may purchase tickets to play golf with Byrd and 28 other celebrities.
"At night, there will be festivities along with silent and live auctions. The tournament will be capped with a concert by Byrd and other country singers," Brunson said. "We hope the tournament will generate both awareness and resources for Catch-A-Dream."
For more information about the Catch-A-Dream program, contact Brunson at (662) 325-3174 or visit the website www.catchadream.org.