When a child is sick, adults will do just about anything to make that child feel better and that is how The St. Jude Archery Tournament came to be. When Chase Hamm, a fourteen year old boy from Prosperity, South Carolina, was diagnosed with a brain tumor called Craniopharyngioma in October of 2007, he and his family traveled to Memphis, TN for treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He was going to be in treatment through Christmas that year and all he had wanted was a bow.
His parents had arranged for him to receive a bow for Christmas but due to a weapons policy at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, where they were staying, arrangements had to be made to store the bow while he was in Memphis. His Dad researched the area for archery shops that could set-up and store the bow. Ty Davis at Everything Archery agreed to allow Chase to rent a locker to store his new bow and to set it up for him. Chase was not able to shoot a lot after that initial excursion to the archery shop due to side effects from his treatment but a bond had been made with Ty and the sport of archery.
Chase completed treatment in January 2008 and returned to South Carolina with his much prized bow that he had received that Christmas. He built targets out of boxes and rags to shoot at in the back yard to perfect his archery skills. Whenever he would return to Memphis for follow-up appointments with the doctors at St. Jude he would try to visit Everything Archery and share his archery stories with Ty and the gang.
The following Christmas, Chase started having headaches again and a trip to his local hospital revealed that he had developed another tumor in his brain. The following week he had surgery at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis to remove what turned out to be Osteosarcoma of the Skull. The doctor’s at St. Jude allowed him and his family to return to South Carolina to pack because treatment for this very rare form of Osteosarcoma was going to be a long one. The most important thing that Chase had to pack was his bow. He planned on spending as much of his free time as possible at Everything Archery.
During the thirteen months of his treatment he not only perfected his skills with his compound bow but he picked up a few tricks with a recurve bow as well. He learned to make strings and fletch arrows from Ty, who had become affectionately known to Chase as Uncle Ty. His love for archery had grown so much he had played around with the idea of taking the skills he had learned and one day opening his own shop in South Carolina. In February 2010, Chase got to move back home to South Carolina where he planned on finishing High School and attend college.
September of 2010 he was told that his bone marrow had been damaged so badly by the previous cancer treatment that he had developed a condition called MDS, Myelodysplastic Syndrome formerly known as preleukemia. He only had 2% Leukemia cells in his blood. The doctor’s at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital said that he would need a bone marrow transplant. They had already searched the registries and no match could be found. His family then completed the screening to see who amongst his family of five may be a match.
Every parent is a 50% match but usually siblings have a few more chromosomes that would be more of match. Unfortunately Chase’s brother and sister were less of a match than his father but his mother, Melissa, had one more chromosome match than any of the others. While undergoing the testing to prepare for the transplant another tumor was found in Chase’s lung. After undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, the doctors felt his body needed time to recover before starting the transplant. Luckily, Chase was able to return home and fulfill his dream of graduating from high school.
June of 2011, Chase and his mother hit the road to Memphis to start preparations for the transplant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Before reporting to the campus of the hospital, their first stop was at Everything Archery to place Chase’s bow in his locker, that just happened to still have his name taped to the outside.
As with any form of grief, Melissa had gone through most of the standard stages during Chase’s diagnoses. Upon her return to Memphis this time, anger and frustration hit hard. While at the archery shop with Chase one day, she decided to pick up a bow and ask for some instruction. After shooting a few arrows, it was apparent she was a natural. She was hooked. Archery became a stress release from her fears and worries of what was happening with Chase’s treatment. She shot regularly with Chase so he could use his archery as a physical activity to keep strong during his treatment. Chase became weaker and weaker and eventually was not able to shoot his bow but still enjoyed visiting with his friends at the archery shop. He pushed Melissa to shoot more and encouraged her to start competing. In February 2012, Chase’s mom became the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) TN Indoor Women’s Freestyle Champion. Then in August she won the TN Outdoor Women’s Freestyle title. Most parents live vicariously through their children and their activities but with Chase and Melissa the roles had reversed. Chase was there to cheer his mom and coach her whenever needed.
When asked about organizing a benefit archery tournament to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital, it only seem natural for Chase and Melissa to be involved. Throughout Chase’s six year journey he and Melissa had spoken to countless groups about their experiences at St. Jude to raise money to support the mission of this amazing facility. The opportunity to combine their love of archery and raise money for the hospital that had given Chase a chance at life was a perfect match.