My name is Chasten Whitfield. I work to help disadvantaged kids forget their troubles for one day, as well as to share the joys of fishing with elementary and middle school kids. Fishing is the tool I use to reach out to kids and get them to open up about daily troubles, talk about doing what’s right, and learn that we were all given two hands — one to help ourselves and another to help others.
With some groups, I teach basic fishing skills, while with others, I teach participants how to throw a small cast net. I give kids a chance to experience fishing through my foundation — Chastenation (a group of friends who support the work I do for children). In their day-to-day lives, some of the kids I work with fight for their lives, but on the days they are with me, they only have to fight a fish. The fish don’t care if they’re tall, skinny, a girl or a boy — fish don’t judge.
Last year, I met a 5-year-old with spina bifida at a fish camp. While we were fishing off a pier, he told me that he had never caught a fish or been in a boat before. I told him I was so sure he would catch a fish off the pier that I would take him in my boat after he caught a fish. Well, my little friend Easton caught 12 snapper that day! I borrowed a friend’s boat (so that Easton’s wheelchair would fit), and I took him fishing in the boat. That day changed the rest of my life.
I am extremely excited to have been accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). While there, I plan to pursue a degree in TV and Film Production, with a minor in Advertising. Also, while attending SCAD, I have committed to being a member of the school’s women’s bass fishing team. There are many skills I hope to develop during my studies at SCAD. I am eager to learn the basics of this industry, especially how to use the equipment and the technical skills necessary to operate it. Once I have learned the basics, I can better determine how to use these skills in different situations. For example, I want to be able to tell the stories of the kids I help, capturing their stories in videos and photographs. The fishing coach at SCAD and I have also been discussing how we can continue to help kids by having Chastenation/SCAD seminars in local tackle stores in Savannah.
My career aspirations and ultimate desired impact would be to have all kids treated the same, with each getting an opportunity to do what makes them happy. I hope to achieve my goal of owning and hosting my own fishing show focused on kids’ fishing, thereby joining both my education at SCAD and my love of fishing. Currently, with my foundation Chastenation, at least 20 disadvantaged and/or seriously ill children have been fishing with me. The goals of these fishing trips are to help them forget their troubles for one day, enjoy some time on the water and experience the excitement of reeling in their own catch. While on the water, we film the kids fishing and make videos of their experiences. These videos help tell their stories so that we can share in their journeys in life, what they have gone through and what they love to do, as well as show viewers how these experiences are so much more than “just fishing.”
So, aside from my schoolwork, I stay very involved helping special-needs children, fishing in tournaments and donating my winnings to children’s charities, and helping middle school students stay on track and do what’s right. That’s the legacy I want to leave the world. Someday, I hope people will remember me as Chasten Whitfield, the woman who made a positive difference in the lives of many children.