Nonprofit sets up fishing charters for disadvantaged kids
Chasten Whitfield was just 16 when she began these fishing charters. Now she hopes to make it a full-time job.
| 5:00 a.m. February 23, 2023
After getting her driver's license in 2016, Chasten Whitfield drove a few friends out to a fishing camp on Anna Maria City Pier. That’s where she met Easton, a 4-year-old with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine.
Every time Easton caught a fish that day, he would do a doughnut in his wheelchair and exclaim he had caught a fish. By the end of the day, Whitfield was so caught up in his joy that she asked his mom to take him fishing in a boat.
“I blame it all on Easton now,” says Whitfield, now 23. “That’s how I started taking the kids fishing.”
Whitfield says she has since taken 70 to 80 differently abled people as well as those who have been bullied on fishing charters. She does that through her nonprofit, Bradenton-based Chastenation, which has been garnering regional attention.
To fuel the nonprofit's growth Whitfield — who maintains a day-job as an associate producer at Monster Jam, a Feld Entertainment motorsports competition, in Palmetto — has dipped into her entrepreneurial side. She has a strong social media presence, especially on Instagram and YouTube. She also has her own TV show that has led to an even bigger goal: to be the first fishing show on Netflix.
Her TV show, "Their Life my Lens with Chasten Whitfield," debuted in 2021. She set a five-year goal as a freshman at the Savannah College of Art and Design to pursue a degree in TV and film. Last year, her senior year, she was given the opportunity to film a pilot show and present it to Sportsman Channel.
“It worked,” she says. “Now I’m on season two.”
The show is even expanding, going on Waypoint TV and Destination America. Each episode consists of Whitfield taking someone out to fish until lunch and then they do an interview.
After wrapping up filming for season two, Whitfield hopes to expand Chastenation across the U.S.
Every charter is different, but Whitfield blocks off her entire day for a trip. Some of the people she takes out will be done after catching a fish or two. Others will fish until it’s time to go home.
“This is their day,” she says. “I’m just the boat Uber driver. I’m their chauffeur for the day.”
To fill the time for those who don’t like to fish nonstop, Whitfield takes them swimming or they’ll look for dolphins. Some just want to drive the boat around.
Whitfield grew up on the water, living on a canal, but she didn’t become serious about fishing until she was 11 or 12.
“Now, I like seeing the reaction of the kid or person that I take fishing,” she says. “Seeing their actual reaction first hand is just amazing and worth everything right there.”
Her nonprofit has grown beyond the charters, too.
Following a trip to Texas, she had a person reach out about a neighbor with cerebral palsy in Dallas. The mom was hopeful Whitfield could take the child fishing, but Whitfield knew nothing about the fishing laws in Texas. “I was just there to watch a rodeo,” she says.
Still Whitfield did as much as she could, using her source of sponsors to find a charter captain in Texas to connect with the person. The schedules didn’t line up, so unfortunately, the child still hasn’t been taken fishing. But it hasn’t fallen off Whitfield’s to-do list, and she notes that she dreams of the day she’ll be able to call that mom to set up a charter. In the meantime, she’s setting realistic goals.
“I obviously can’t take every kid in the world fishing, so my goal is to have a bunch of different captains in different states help me do that through Chastenation,” she says.
To help with funding more charters, as the nonprofit is reliant on donations, Whitfield started the Chastenation Gala last year, raising between $8,000 to $9,000 at the event, held on Bradenton Beach. After she’s wrapped up production of the show’s second season, she’ll get started on planning the next gala. The goal this year is to raise $10,000 to $12,000.
“If we raise $10,000, that’s 100 kids we can take fishing,” she says, noting it takes about $150 to $200 to fuel up the boat.
With the TV show just breaking even (Whitfield says it costs an “uncomfortable amount” to produce), and the nonprofit reliant on donations, her ultimate goal is to make Chastenation her full-time job.
And word about Chastenation is getting out, with her social media following growing to nearly 6,000 followers. Last year, she took out 20-30 people on a charter. This year, she’s hoping to increase that to over 50 with a goal of booking a charter once a week.