Archers worldwide make promise to dying Kansas girl
Posted November 21
WICHITA, Kan. — Sitting in a tree stand in southeast Kansas a few weeks ago, Ray Huff was feeling sorry for himself because his prospects for getting a big buck with his bow seemed slim. He looked at Facebook on his phone. Suddenly, he saw things in a different light.
He stopped at a post about a 9-year-old girl in Goddard, Addison Adams, who is losing a battle with incurable brain cancer, The Wichita Eagle (http://j.mp/2gyUCWg ) reports.
Addison, a fourth-grader known for a beaming smile, bouncing red ponytail and deep love of archery.
"When I read that post, and saw a picture of Addison, it just really struck home," said Huff, a school principal and the father of two young children. "I knew that as a dad, it would be such a helpless feeling . the worst thing that could ever happen to me."
Huff pulled a pen from his pocket, and in honor of the girl he'd never met, put an "A'' on the plastic feather of one of his arrows so he'd think of Addison every time he hunted.
He shared a photo of the arrow with a friend.
Huff unknowingly sparked a project that has brought support for Addison from all 50 states, four Canadian provinces and six countries. From as far away as Japan and Italy, archers are putting an A on an arrow for Addison and keeping it in their quiver to take her, in spirit, hunting and target shooting. In a show of support for the girl and her family, they are sending photos and arrows to Kansas.
Christina Jones, Addison's archery coach and family friend, has collected about 900 pictures from people with A's on their arrows. As of Friday morning more than 100 arrows had arrived in Wichita, which will be made into a bouquet for the family.
"I just got a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat when I read about Addison," said Shane Honore, of Caledonia, Wis. "I have an 13-year-old son and know it could have been him. At times like this you just want to do whatever you can do to lift somebody up, even if it's only a little bit."
Jones has been sharing the photos and messages with Addison, who has been comatose for about four weeks. Doctors say she is still probably aware of her surroundings.
Addison's parents, Chris and Kindra Adams, have been following the outpouring of support, Jones said.
"They've actually been overwhelmed by the entire thing," Jones said. "But this time it's overwhelmed in a very positive way."
Some say they're getting more from the "Arrows for Addison" campaign than they are giving.
"There's probably no way her family will ever understand how many lives they've touched through this," said Jody Hawkins, of Petal, Miss. "This little girl has changed the way a lot of people look at things. There's a lot of people better realizing what's really important in life. Every time we look at one of those arrows, and see that A, it makes us think of her, and appreciate what we've got."
Jones met Addison about three years ago in the youth shooting program at Diamond Archery, a popular range in Wichita.
"She was always the first one to show up for a class and the last to leave," Jones said. "She'd come in any day she could to practice. She really worked to get better." Her coach described Addison as "incredibly kind, but she also had just enough sass to keep it interesting."
Then last December the girl began having problems seeing targets. By January she couldn't lift her bow.
"We spent countless moments crying because she just didn't understand why she couldn't shoot her bow anymore," said Jones. "None of us understood."
In February, Addison was diagnosed with DIPG, a rare kind of inoperable brain cancer that mostly strikes kids ages 5 to 9. It's fatal 99 percent of the time. Most victims die within 10 months. Addison, sadly, has been on schedule.
It was about the time the girl became unresponsive four weeks ago that Jones placed a post on Facebook that portrayed her frustration with Addison's situation and childhood cancer.
Within a few hours Huff, in his tree stand, saw a shared version of that post.
The next day, Huff spoke of Addison to the 30-student archery team at the K-8 Service Valley Charter Academy near Oswego where he is principal.
"It was amazing," Huff said. "You could sense something in the room. The kids got out all of our arrows, nearly 200 of them, and wrote an A for Addison on every one of them. Some of the kids got choked up thinking of her as they did it."
Jones and others, including this outdoors writer, posted on Bowsite, a bowhunting website, and several target archery sites and Facebook pages.
"When I read it, the first thing I did was to get up out of my chair, go to where I kept all of my arrows and put an A on each and every one of them. That's exactly what I did," said Hawkins of Mississippi, whose 8-year-old daughter won a battle with cancer. "You can't help but to feel for the kid, and for her family. As a parent you just automatically think what it would be like if that was you, and your child. You want to do anything you can."
Within hours Jones was hearing from archers from coast to coast, and eventually as far away as Japan who wanted to participate. Photos of arrows with an A have been coming in rapidly, many with touching messages.
"So many people are sending their thoughts and prayers for Addison and her family," Jones said. "Over and over people have said how this has helped them to better appreciate their family, and realize how lucky they are."
Justin Broughton, of Sioux Falls, S.D., is one of many parents who've used Addison's cause as a bonding experience with family. Shortly after reading about Addison on Bowsite, he talked with his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Kia Gjoraas, about the importance of thinking of others and "celebrating life every chance you get, because you never know."
Craig Kight, of Crown Point, Ind., said the project has rekindled the feelings he had when he volunteered to work with young cancer patients at St. Jude Hospital. He's hoping to help start a scholarship and possibly an award to be given within a youth archery club. Both would carry Addison's name.
Blake Nowak, at Diamond Archery in Wichita, agreed to accept donated arrows, with an A, from archers who wanted to help build a bouquet for the family. Jones said many are just standard target or hunting arrows. Some archers have sent special, hand-made arrows to honor Addison.
Kight sent one of the arrows he used when he completed his first perfect score at a competition. Honore's son, Collin, is sending the arrow he used to shoot his first buck, just a few weeks ago. Gjorass is sending the arrow she used to shoot a doe this fall, her first deer with a bow after several years of hard work.
"That arrow means so much and I know what an accomplishment it is to get an animal with a bow," she said, "but I want Addison to have it since she'll probably never get a chance to do that. I want to support her, and dedicate it to her."