Each year since 2012, Mary Ann and Edward Little have honored their son with an annual bike ride. Through an endowed fund created through The Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation, the money raised from the Zachary Little Memorial Bike Ride benefits organizations that shared Zachary’s two favorite hobbies – hunting and baseball – as well as two wonderful children’s hospitals.
We could all take a note from Zachary Little and the life he lived. He was in love with it, and everyone around him felt that every day.
“Zachary loved life,” said Zachary’s mom, Mary Ann. “He enjoyed life. He lived life. And we want to share that with everybody – who he was – that’s why we do this. And I’m thankful for the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation for helping us do that.”
Zachary was diagnosed with Medullo-blastoma, a type of pediatric brain cancer, the summer after he finished second grade. After more than a year of treatment, the cancer came back, and the only treatment options offered could provide a small extension of time. So, Zachary made the difficult decision to make the most of those few months instead.
With the help of Catch a Dream Foundation, Zachary was able to travel to Missouri to go on the hunt of a lifetime.
Catch a Dream Foundation was established by Dr. Marty Brunson, a retired Mississippi State professor. The foundation provides kids battling life-threatening illnesses with a world-class hunting, fishing or outdoors trip. So far, they’ve been able to go on nearly 600 trips in 29 different states. Since Zachary’s dream hunt, the Littles have used proceeds from the Zachary Little Memorial Fund to help other kids go on their dream hunt as well.
When you couldn’t find Zachary in a treestand, he was probably on the baseball diamond. In order to honor his other passion, a scholarship is given each year to a senior baseball player at Sumrall High School. With the help of coaches and other leaders, the scholarship is given to an individual who best exemplifies the life Zachary lived – one full of joy and enthusiasm for the game and compassion for those around him.
“Zach loved baseball, and the Sumrall baseball team really took him in, and loved him like one of their own,” said Zachary’s father, Ed.
Without a doubt, Zachary made an impact on the Sumrall baseball community along with the Pine Belt as a whole.
"The Sumrall High baseball family has always had a special place in our hearts for Zach Little and his family,” said Sumrall Head Baseball Coach Larry Knight.
“Ed and Mary Ann are special people and their son Ryan is a member of our 9th-grade baseball team, as well. We had several players who were close to Zach and his family and showed support to them during the time Zach was sick.
“We also are very grateful for the support the Little family has shown through the years by providing a scholarship to one of our senior baseball players in honor of Zach. The community has done a tremendous job of supporting the Zach Little Memorial Bike Ride 5K and our baseball family hopes that it will extend for many years to come!”
In addition to supporting The Catch a Dream Foundation and the Sumrall Baseball scholarship, money is also raised to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where Zachary received treatment, as well as Blair E. Batson’s Children’s Hospital, somewhere that hits home for the Littles as well as other families to whom they have reached out who also have children with life-threatening illnesses.
To support all of these causes, the Little family hosts the annual Zachary Little Memorial Bike Ride and 5k. This year’s event will be held Sept. 16 on the Longleaf Trace beginning in Sumrall. Registration will start at 7am, with the bike ride beginning at 8am, and the 5k run starting at 8:10am. The entry fee is $25 with all proceeds going to benefit the Zachary Little Memorial Fund at the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation.
“We are so honored to be part of this event,” said Theresa Erickson, executive director of the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation. “The Little family has endured so much and has been such an influence to so many. One of the main roles of the foundation is to help the community mourn after a loss, and to help the community support great causes.”
The PineBelt Foundation, a 501(c)(3), manages 200 charitable funds set up by donors who want to leave a legacy and make a difference in the Pine Belt area. Donors can set up Funds in their name, in memory of a loved one, or to honor someone. Funds can be to set up to support the donor’s favorite charity or for a charitable cause.
For more information on The Greater PineBelt Community Foundation, visit PineBeltFoundation.org.