By Annie Rhoades
Many graduates aspire to “chase their dreams” once they receive their degree and forge a career path. But for alumnus Chase Treadway (BSFCS 09), founder and president of Chase Your Dreams Foundation, the phrase took on a new meaning when it became his life’s work.
A self-described “military brat,” Treadway was born in Madrid and spent his childhood moving around the country after his family relocated to the U.S. when he was young.
“I went to probably 18 different schools, so I don’t really have a place I would call my hometown,” Treadway said. “My father was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, so we moved about every year and a half. Growing up I hadn’t really found a way to find my niche – find my sense of where I belong because we were all over the place. I really didn’t find that until I got to Ole Miss.”
Treadway graduated from Saint Stanislaus boarding school in Bay St. Louis in 2004 before making his way up the state to attend Ole Miss.
“I never knew I wanted to go to Ole Miss until 2004,” Treadway said. “Everything just kind of fell into place. Right when I showed up there it was just this huge smile on my face. It was absolutely amazing to get into the scene of being accepted. I met some of the best people I know at Ole Miss.”
A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Treadway led an active and gregarious lifestyle embracing everything that the university has to offer including an attempt to start a rowing team.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences in 2009, Treadway accepted a job with Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity International as a chapter consultant, keeping him close to his beloved campus.
“I was always on and off traveling with my job,” said Treadway. “About six months after I started, on July 4, 2009, I was in Oxford hanging out hosting a pool party. That pool party led to me jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool where I blew out my neck at C6 and C7, paralyzing me from the waist down. I became a quadriplegic meaning I lost the use of basically 85% of my body. I went from pretty much living the dream to boom – everything got turned off.”
With his parents living in Hawaii enjoying their retirement, the closest place to call home was his grandmother’s home in Covington, La. Treadway and his family decided to relocate one more time to the bayou.
“Everyday is a new day with independence,” Treadway said. “What I’m working with these days is the top parts of my arms and shoulders and then some wrists. There is no using of the hands, but I can feel them, which is truly strange.”
Treadway is quick to credit several influential people in his life that have been there to help him become the person he is today.
“My dad and my mom have always been there for me even during the worst of times. Also Candis Varnell [lecturer] in the hospitality program and former Ole Miss professor Dr. Young Hoon Kim both truly gave me an idea of what I could do. They both still keep up with me, and Dr. Kim came to visit me in Atlanta when I was there for four months recovering, which is pretty cool.”
Approximately two years after the accident, Treadway learned how to drive again. While out driving, enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon in March 2012, he decided to do something completely unexpected that would change the direction of his life.
“I decided what the hell, I’m going to the airport to go skydiving,” Treadway said. “I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, so I just jumped in the car and thought I have nothing to lose. I had made friends with some of the people at the local airport in Slidell, La., and I waited around all day and asked what’s it going to take? I really wanted to do something fun again. They agreed to let me do it, and it was incredible. What I felt was such an eye-opening, life-changing milestone experience. I think that people who have lost so much need to understand something truly great – just the freedom of not being kept up. That’s when I started figuring out ways to help other people get on my path, not just spinal cord injuries, but anybody that’s gone through something tough in their life whether they’re paralyzed or not. I started realizing that people needed to hear the simple things like, ‘it’s gong to be okay.’”
Armed with a newfound zest for life and a purpose to help others reclaim their joy, Treadway dabbled with a couple of projects before settling on Chase Your Dreams Foundation, which officially launched in July 2014.
The foundation strives to inspire a sense of dignity and re-fulfillment for those that have acquired a disability and provide the information and motivation to help respark the will to live and prove that life can be even more amazing with a disability.
“I think I can be an inspiration and a resource from public speaking to kids, occupational therapists, physical therapists and students in the medical field to just helping out everybody in the community around New Orleans,” Treadway said.
With the help of his fraternity brother and alumnus Charlie Wildman (BSGE 09) and friend Jeff Steckler taking a cross-country, 2,000-mile bike ride from Maryland to Colorado to raise awareness for Chase Your Dreams, the foundation raised $11,000.
The ride sparked a lot of interest, and the foundation has since turned into promoting awareness, advocacy and mentoring among other things. Treadway’s goal for the future is to hopefully put together a facility in New Orleans called the Ability Center, an accessible community center to help people get their lives back on track.
“I want people to know that everybody can take something from the foundation,” Treadway said. “It’s not just for people with disabilities but examples of everyone else moving forward with their lives too whether it be a parent, a friend or the individual themselves – everybody can benefit from someone else’s experience.”
For more information on Chase Your Dreams Foundation and ways to be involved, visit www.chaseyourdreams.org.