We recently caught up with Chasten Whitfield to talk to her about Chastenation, her mission, and the role that fishing plays in her inspiring story!
1. Hey Chasten! We're super excited to share your story today. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and what you are currently working on.
My name is Chasten Whitfield. I just turned 18 years old. I was born and raised in Cortez, Florida. I got my captain's license two days after my 18th birthday and I am currently finishing high school, applying for scholarships, taking kids fishing and telling their stories, as well as traveling Florida and teaching kids fishing skills while talking to them about social media issues and bullying.
2. How long have you been fishing, and who introduced you to it?
I have been fishing my whole life. My mother introduced me to fishing and my dad didn’t even eat fish until he married my mom, ha!
3. Tell us about your non-profit organization, the mission, and how it came about. When did you realize that helping kids in this way was something you wanted to do?
Chastenation is a group of local anglers who have come together to help disadvantaged and ill kids. We also travel around the state teaching kids of all ages fishing skills while talking to them about bullying and social media skills. So we pretty much work with kids, getting them outdoors (away from computers and video games) and doing what's right for the right reasons.
I first realized I wanted to help kids when I was 7 years old and saw pictures of children suffering from Hurricane Katrina. That year I took my piggybank to my mom and told her I wanted to give my money to the babies on TV. My mom took me to the Red Cross and they took all my pennies and gave them to the victims of the hurricane. After that, I held several yard sales and lemonade stands donating over $9,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I met a 5 year old in 2016 with spina bifda at a fish camp and we were fishing off a pier. He had never caught a fish before, and he was telling me he had never been on a boat before. I told him I was so sure that he would catch a fish off the pier that I would take him in my boat after he catches a fish. Well my friend Easton caught 12 snapper off the pier that day and the next week I borrowed my friend's boat and I took him in the boat fishing. That day changed the rest of my life.
I am so blessed to be working with these kids. They teach me more than I could ever teach them. Teens my age worry too much about silly things —how many likes they get on social media, if they are going to be invited to the popular parties, etc. The kids I work with only worry about when they will feel better, what their next shot will be and if they will even be able to walk. They keep me grounded and I am just so blessed to work with these kids often. I basically use fishing as an avenue to talk about real life stuff. But at the same time, they learn about fishing and have fun.
4. Tell us about other causes you've been passionate about or that you have helped organize relief efforts for. I know you were involved in hurricane relief efforts. Tell us about that.
Through social media, I helped collect supplies and bring trailers of those supplies to the people affected by the flooding in Texas and the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. We helped load up several trailers and even a few boats taking supplies down to the victims.
5. What exciting things are in the works? What are you working on now or for the future?
We are getting ready to put on our annual Kiddie Pole Classic that benefits Face Autism. We fish this tournament with those little cartoon rods. All of the money for this tournament goes directly to our local Face Autism group which helps them with therapies and sensory related activities. We will also be heading down to the Miami boat show in February.
6. We saw you were going to be going to SCAD! Congratulations! What specific skills are you hoping to refine at SCAD? Will your passions outside of school continue while you are there?
Yes, I am super excited about SCAD and I will have the honor of participating on the girl's college bass fishing team. While I’m there, I will be studying for my major in Film and Television with a minor in advertising. I’m super excited to be venturing into the fresh water industry. I am already starting to practice with my bait caster.
My dream for after graduation is to be able to host a TV show taking these special kids fishing. In my opinion, we need good stuff in the news today and when you see a child with a brain tumor fighting a monster snook bigger than her, it's nice to see that she isn't thinking about anything at the one moment other than that fish. She is no longer worrying about fighting for her life. Then the squeals/laughter that come after we land the fish is something I think everyone needs to see and feel. Life is just so much bigger than what's on the news, and I pray for an opportunity to show the world these children's stories. Who knows, maybe more doctors would see these kids and it would create more awareness/inspire them to find treatments for these rare diseases. More awareness = more cures!!! It's a win-win.
Sorry I get a little carried away talking about this kids.
For more information about Chasten and Chastenation, check out the video below and her YouTube channel here.