It’s a real-life fable that’ll make you perk up your ears. Our tale begins with a stray cat’s strut and ends with the feisty feline raising funds for the Children’s Garden inside the Cancer Survivors Park. But we’re pouncing ahead of ourselves. Let’s paws for a moment and start at the beginning.
Once upon a time, Greenville native Jean Hunt moved to a quaint cottage on Boggy Branch Plantation in the Lowcountry. Jean’s husband Julian was fighting cancer and wanted to be near his doctors in Charleston. “It’s nothing fancy,” she says, as she describes her magical, coastal hideaway. “But when you go outside and relax, it helps you heal, and that’s what happened to us. It’s
a spiritual, healing place.” One afternoon, as the Hunts returned from Julian’s treatments, emotionally and physically drained, a scrawny black-and-white cat wandered out of the woods to greet them in the cottage driveway. Later that night, while the couple sat reflecting upon the marsh, the cat came back with a raccoon and squirrel by its side. “We went and got Fancy Feast and nuts, and they ate side-by-side on my porch every single day after that,” Jean recalls. “Then, they’d sit and make noises to each other, and we’d laugh and try to guess what they were talking about.”
Animal Magnetism // Jean Hunt, author of a series of children’s books inspired by her real-life experiences with animals, has created a coloring book to benefit the new Cancer Survivors Park. Additionally, this month, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre is staging a play based on Hunt’s works: Mattie, Bogey & Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, May 20–22, 153 Augusta St, Greenville. For more information, go to scchildrenstheatre.org.
As Julian gained health, the cat gained a name: Bogey. The furball grew fat and earned house privileges as well, and that’s when Jean asked a friend to paint Bogey’s portrait. In turn, the artist encouraged the big-hearted grandmother to write a children’s book starring the plantation prowler and his four-legged friends. When the Hunts returned to Greenville, Jean wrote a book, and then another, and another, and another. Since 2009, she’s sold more than 6,000 copies, all featuring Bogey and his sidekicks, and their peppy leader, a young girl named Mattie. “I love how Bogey, and Randy the raccoon, and all the animals are different, but they are such good friends,” Jean shares in her soft Southern lilt. “I wanted to write beyond a cute book. I wanted to write books with morals.”
The series and its success showcase Jean’s love of animals and kids. The Hunts have donated all profits, totaling $28,000, to the Greenville Humane Society. The author recently compiled The Mattie and Bogey Coloring Book, which will benefit the Children’s Garden inside Cancer Survivors Park, in downtown Greenville along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The 80-page creation includes drawings from Jean’s illustrators, Caroline Lott and Zach Franzen, as well as dozens of pictures by local students. “It adds another degree to the survivor story,” explains Kay Roper, executive director of Survivors Park. “Bogey and nature helped save Julian, and now the animals and the Children’s Garden will provide healing and hope to young cancer patients, parents, and care providers.”
Visitors won’t find this story’s whiskered hero in the Children’s Garden when it opens in 2017. Bogey passed away, after a long, happy life with the Hunts. But Jean now has a new feline friend rubbing against her ankles. She’s been spending time with Cleveland the Cat, who lives inside the park. In fact, a book about Cleveland may be in the works. Wouldn’t that be purrfect?
Find out where to pick up a copy of The Mattie and Bogey Coloring Book at cancersurvivorspark.org, or at (864) 255-5010.