Vicksburg teen headed on safari
Published 6:13 pm Monday, August 27, 2018
Haden Ashley may have some physical limitations, but it is not stopping this local teenager from exploring the wilds of Africa.
On Sept. 1, Haden, along with his family will board a plane and travel thousands of miles to go on a South African safari.
“I am looking forward to seeing a zebra,” the Academy of Innovation student said, and riding the ATVs.
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Haden’s trip is being made available through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and on Saturday the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg hosted a send-off party for the 13-year-old.
Haden was born with the genetic disorder Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which is one of the nine types of muscular dystrophy, his mother Heather Ashley said. Symptoms include progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.
The Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg acts as the local liaison for the foundation, JAV Make-A-Wish chairman Sally Southall said.
“Through JA we take charge of all the wish children in Warren County,” Southall said, “And once the wish has been granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we host the send off party.”
In addition to the send off party, Southall said the organization also gets to know the child and their family, and through the year makes an effort to find out what they enjoy.
“We come up with a team who will meet with the child and their parents and find out what their wish is and get a feeling of what the child likes,” Southall said.
“And if they (the child) don’t have a particular wish we can help them come up with a wish if they don’t really know what they want to do,” she said.
Initially, Southall said, the Make-A-Wish Foundation project was just a “side” project of the group, but it has now been adopted as one of their many JAV projects that focuses on the needs of children in Warren County.
While the Make-A-Wish Foundation funds the wish itself, Southall said, the JAV funds the send-off parties.
“They have become rather large events,” she said.
This year, the send off party was held at the Purks YMCA parking lot.
Cheerleaders and dance teams from all the local high schools performed and a DJ was on hand playing all of Haden’s favorite songs.
Southall said “on the average” Warren County would have three to four children a year who will be eligible for a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Haden’s 10-day African safari trip will include hotel accommodations at The Palace of the Lost City Hotel in Sun City, South Africa, where Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s latest romantic comedy, “Blended,” was filmed in 2013.
In addition to Haden’s parents, Heather and Chris Ashley, accompanying him on the trip, his maternal grandparents, Rinda and Mike Haden will also be traveling with them to Africa.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is funding the trip for Haden’s parents and grandmother, but Southall said Mike Haden would be paying for his own expenses.