Richmond County Daily Journal
An aspiring “Indiana Jones” woman of adventure had a Christmas wish come true.
Last week, Ashley Faye Miller, formerly of Rockingham, was on vacation with family in Cozumel, Mexico, when her mother gave Ashley an early Christmas gift — a chance to swim with dolphins.
Eleven years ago, Miller wrote in the Letters to Santa special section of The Richmond County Daily Journal in December 2002 that she wanted “a week-long trip to SeaWorld … to see a real live, not on television, dolphin.”
“My mom actually surprised me on our trip and said while we were here … since this is a part of your Christmas present … you’re going to get to do something you’ve always wanted to do,” Miller said shortly after returning from Mexico. “I’m 22, but just like that 8-year-old Ashley came out in me. I was so excited.”
Miller now lives in Charlotte after graduating from Belmont Abbey College as a history major with dual minors in English and international studies. The Richmond Senior High School graduate was one of five people with the name “Ashley Miller” during her high school years but this most recent life event sets her apart.
It was an adventure she’s been waiting for, for years.
“I was not nervous at all,” Miller said.
One dolphin, 300-pound Athena, was the “alpha female,” Miller said. Though nice, “she was a lot bigger than I expected her to be.”
Miller said she and others were with the dolphins in the water for nearly an hour. The session, coordinated by a dolphin trainer, allowed group members to swim in the maternity warm with dolphins as young as three months old.
There was much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, Miller said.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I’m always going to treasure that.”
Miller hopes to use her education and interests to travel the world. She said she was especially inspired in life by Susan Wells, her kindergarten teacher at Cordova Elementary School. Wells, Miller said, traveled to Saudi Arabia for more than a decade.
“I would love to go overseas,” Miller said. “I would love to be Indiana Jones.”
Meanwhile, she’ll continue to get the most out of life stateside. Her Christmas spirit will help her along.
“I still have some left,” Miller said. “Even 11 years ago wasn’t quite as bad as it is now. Things really detract from the spirt of the whole season. I think it gets worse every year, really.”
Miller put aside the idea of pursuing a career in marine biology or another field in which she could be with ocean animals on a full-time basis. The science was too difficult, she said. Still, she said she enjoys watching from afar — and that joy reached a fever pitch while swimming with dolphins, the root of which was an 11-year-old letter to Santa Claus.
Today marks the beginning of this year’s Letters to Santa campaign. Your letter must be received by The Daily Journal by 5 p.m. on Dec. 20. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to Matt Harrelson at: The Richmond County Daily Journal, 105 E. Washington St., Rockingham, NC 28379.